The Shmooze

Topol Wows at Folksbiene 'Fiddler' 50th

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

Lots of Motls, Goldas and Tzeitels, but only one world-famous Tevye — Topol— were on stage at Town Hall for the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene’s June 9 extravaganza “Raising the Roof: A tribute to “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The show seamlessly showcased multi-generational alumni of “Fiddler”— including Pia Zadora – reaching back to the 1967 Broadway opening through its decades’-long, worldwide incarnations. A 91-year young Fyvush Finkel danced onto the stage as Lazer Wolf the butcher, arguing in Yiddish, with Tevye the Milkman Mike Burstyn. Violinist Joshua Bell performed a medley of “Fiddler” themes and Austin Pendleton, the first Motl the Tailor, sang “Miracles of Miracles.”

Karen Leon
Zalmen Mlotek

“I don’t know about you, but for me this has been a hell of an evening,” 90-years-young “Fiddler” lyricist Sheldon Harnick, told the audience. Thanking Folksbiene’s artistic director Zalmen Mlotek “without whom this event could not have happened,” Harnick joined Andrea Martin (Golde in a 2004 revival) in the heartwarming farklempt duet: “Do You Love Me?”

Israel’s consul general in New York Ido Aharoni touted “Yiddish as influential beyond the number of people who spoke it — because it was the language of the newcomer, the immigrant who has to adjust, adapt — often with humour — into the oil of the social machine. Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews, newcomers, old-timers — all of us join in this great celebration and on behalf of the Israeli government I thank you for being here.”

White-haired and elegant in a suit, Topol, star of Norman Jewison’s’ 1971 Academy Awarding winning film “Fiddler on the Roof” recalled Jewison [who could not make it because of plane complications] coming backstage in London in 1968, telling him: “’Chaim, I like the way you play Tevye…and I want you to be in my film.’” Then, in a surprise a capella rendition of the Harnick-Jerry Bock (music) “If I Were a Rich Man” Topol wowed an already hyper audience. The evening ended with Topol, all participants plus a young people assemblage singing a thrilling “Tradition” to the accompaniment of a roaring audience on its feet.

I first met Topol in July 1967 at a post Six-Day War fundraiser at the London Hilton held under the auspices of The Countess of Harewood, a Jewish member of the Royal family. A tall muscular Topol — Then London’s “Tevye” — came to see keynote speaker Yael Dayan and almost caused a riot. Spotted by some of the 1,000 Jewish British Ladies (there were indeed Lady Cohens, Lady Levys, etc.) they rushed en masse to Topol carrying me along and crushing me against his chest. My head under his chin, my hands protecting my beehive hairdo instead of my ribs, I screamed “Help I can’t breathe!” and had to be rescued by security guards. Fleet Street papers had a ball the next day.

When we met again in New York in 1991 with Topol in a “Fiddler” revival, during our chat he told me: “When I first played Tevye I was only 10-years-married so the 25 years of Tevye’s marriage looked like eternity. Now it’s 36 years so that 25 is like child’s play.” And for “Fiddler” it is 50 years and counting….


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jewish, fiddler on the roof, folksbiene, 50th anniversary

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.