"This deeply researched, powerfully felt and beautifully sung show will be enjoyed by all generations," according to Theater J, which has a focus of works by, about or of interest to Jewish people. "Based on the true tale of the great Yiddish storyteller's youth, fame and challenging journey to America, where he eventually died, the play begins with the writing of a will insisting that Sholom Aleichem be remembered with laughter or not remembered at all."
The story "is told with humor and a rich catalogue of Yiddish songs" performed with Grammy Award-nominated Tamara Brooks (who is the musical director) on piano and internationally-renowned Bosnian accordionist Merima Kljuo.
Derek Goldman directs. The creative team includes set designer Robbie Hayes, lighting designer Jason Arnold, sound designer Matt Otto, projection designer Zack Borovay, costume designer Frank Labovitz and production stage manager Rebecca Berlin.
Opening is Dec. 21. Performances of Sholom Aleichem will take place in the Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater at the Washington, DC, Jewish Community Center at 1529 16th Street NW, four blocks east of Dupont Circle.
The American Theater Festival and the National Jewish Theater will present Theater J's production of Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Jan. 28-Feb. 1, 2009. The 19th-century author Aleichem is widely known for creating characters that would later be recycled in the smash musical Fiddler on the Roof. Bikel has played Tevye the Milkman in national tours of the musical.
"We're so honored to be working on this text with Theo," stated Theater J artistic director Ari Roth, who has seen the script through developmental workshops at Georgetown University along with the director Derek Goldman, head of Georgetown University's program in performing arts. "It's remarkable that an 84-year-old artist should find himself in the midst of writing a new play that he's been honing for the past decade. It's even more astonishing when that artist is willing to do rewrites! He has an amazing mind, and is driven by a strong sense of mission to keep the Yiddish language alive and the real substance of our culture a felt and familiar presence in our lives. Bikel is a walking, singing encyclopedia of Jewish culture. He's a performer of immense virtuosity and now he also has the distinction of being a playwright who's shaped great literary material into a moving biographical drama."
Austrian-born Bikel was nominated for Tony Awards as 1960's Best Featured Actor in a Musical (he created the role of Capt. Von Trapp in The Sound of Music) and as 1958's Best Featured Actor in a Play (for The Rope Dancers).
Bikel starred in Theater J's hit production of Hyam Maccoby's The Disputation in 2005 and a week-long, sold-out concert reading of Arnold Wesker's Shylock in conjunction with the 2007 Shakespeare in Washington Festival. Bikel is a world-renowned stage and screen actor as well as one of the world's most beloved singers of folk music; he is especially known for his vast knowledge of international songs. For the past 50 years, Bikel has appeared in concerts, plays, films, and on television throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Israel and New Zealand. He is also a translator of song lyrics and has recorded over 20 albums.
Tickets, which range from $30 to $55, are available at boxofficetickets.com or at (800) 494-TIXS. Tickets for patrons 25 and under are half-price for all shows. This show is appropriate for ages seven and up.
For more information visit theaterj.org.