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Celebrating Our 17TH Year!

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No. 115 / 2017

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Adrienne Barbeau
Adrienne Barbeau
Pia Zadora
Pia Zadora and Sheldon Harnick
Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera

Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell

Lisa Carroll
Lisa Carroll

Mike Burstyn and wife Cyona
Mike Burstyn and wife Cyona

Sheldon Harnick and Jeffrey Lyons
Sheldon Harnick and Jeffrey Lyons
Chaim Topol, Sheldon Harnick and Mike Burstyn
Chaim Topol, Sheldon Harnick and Mike Burstyn
Elisa Loti Stein (right), widow of Joseph Stein who wrote the book for Fiddler, and their daughter Jenny Lynn Bader
Elisa Loti Stein (right), widow of Joseph Stein who wrote the book for Fiddler, and
their daughter Jenny Lynn Bader
Show’s Golden Anniversary
Is A Miracle Of Miracles

first discovered the shtetl when he was six years old. He was born on the Lower East Side, home of immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father took him to Poland to see where his Rabinowitz family came from.

When he won Tony Awards for directing and choreographing Fiddler on the Roof, he believed he did such a great job that the show would last 25 years.

Here it is 50 years later and the musical is still being produced somewhere in the world. Of course that calls for celebration. Many people who performed as Anatevka shtetl dwellers on stage or screen were invited to Manhattan’s Town Hall in June to commemorate the Golden Anniversary of that global phenomenon, ingrained in the American consciousness.

In a historic reunion, 80 veterans from Fiddler on the Roof productions led us down Memory Lane by recreating several of those enduring scenes and songs. They "raised the roof" in a concert to benefit the National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene, based in New York.

Many in the sold-out audience of 1500 sang along with Chaim Topol, Mike Burstyn, Joanna Borts, Neva Small, Austin Pendleton and Adrienne Barbeau such iconic tunes as "Sunrise, Sunset" and "Matchmaker," under the musical direction of Zalmen Mlotek. That amazing fiddler, Joshua Bell, stepped up to strum tunes from of the Jerry Bock score.

Even Chita Rivera celebrated. Although not a "Fiddler" alumna, she was picked to present a Folksbiene Lifetime Achievement Award to the brilliant Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the songs. It was also a birthday gift as he was 90 on April 30.

Film critic Jeffrey Lyons, proud to count Harnick as his cousin, reported that when the show played Scandinavia, including Finland, Joseph Stein, who wrote the book, asked Harnick, "Why do we schedule openings in countries like these in the dead of winter? It’s freezing!" Harnick said not to worry. The contracts guaranteed the theaters a share of the coat check concession.

Actress/singer Pia Zadora, couldn’t believe it’s been 50 years since she made her Broadway debut as Tevye’s youngest daughter Bielke, "especially as my official bio states I’m 43." (She turned 60 last month.)

She said she spent "two wonderful" years on Broadway. For a youngster from Hoboken, coming from a pretty dysfunctional family, it was an escape and a safe haven.

As a little girl not living the normal life of a 10-year-old, Pia found that the Imperial Theatre was not just her home, it was also her school. The stagehands built her a desk so she could study. They even helped out with her homework. "I’m pleased to say I got all A’s in fifth grade."

Broadway producer Hal Prince would send champagne to all the cast for Christmas. Given that Pia was a minor, he sent her champagne bubble bath. "It was the worst champagne I’ve ever drank," she said.

She said that Zero Mostel, the original Tevye, used to call her "my little shiksa." He taught her three words in Yiddish that would get you through life: "mazel tov, oy vey, and shmuck."

Chaim Topol, star of the film version, announced good news: The Israel post office is going to issue three stamps for the film’s 50th anniversary.

Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni said when Fiddler premiered in Israel, it was done in Yiddish, not the national language Hebrew. That was natural, he said, as Yiddish was the language of the early immigrants. "You needed that type of humor to survive as a newcomer."

Folksbeine president Mark Mlotek was apologetic for the absence of Bel Kaufman at the celebration. She’s a big draw for many in the audience of a certain age. She’s the author of Up the Down Staircase and, more relevant, the granddaughter of Sholom Aleichem, who wrote the 1894 story of Tevye and His Daughters, the source material for Fiddler. We can forgive her. After all, she is 103 years old — three years older than the Folksbiene. (She died July 24.)

Folksbiene chairman Jeffrey Wiesenfeld talked about all the love (besides tradition) that pervaded the shtetl. Like the time Sara went to the rebbe and lamented that both Yossele and Yankele want to marry her. "Who shall be the lucky one?" she gushed. The rebbe looked at her for a moment, narrowed his eyes, and said, "My child, Yossel will marry you. Yankel will be the lucky one."


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