Lyricist Sheldon Harnick and cast members of various Fiddler on the Roof companies through the years are organizing a New York memorial concert for stage and film actor Theodore Bikel, who died July 21, 2015, at age 91.
Remembering Theo—An Evening of Music, Laughter and Love will be held the evening of September 27 in The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.
Performers at the event include David Broza, Peter Yarrow, Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg, Debra Straus, Jeff Warschauer, Zalmen Mlotik, Hankus Netsky, Hazzan Mike Stein, Daniel Kahn and the Fiddler On The Roof Alumni Ensemble. Harnick is among planned speakers.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Theodore Bikel Fund for Peace and Social Justice, which is maintained by the organization Partners for a Progressive Israel, sponsor of the event. Those who wish to buy tickets should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bikel originated the role of Captain Von Trapp in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music. Though he took on dozens of roles throughout his long career, Georg Von Trapp remained his best-known credit. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of the head of a large Austrian brood who defy and escape the Nazis. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the song “Edelweiss” specifically for him. (Mr. Bikel was himself Austrian, having been born in Vienna on May 2, 1924.)
But the role he played most often was that of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. On tour and at various venues, he portrayed the philosophical dairyman more than 2,000 times.
Bikel’s other Broadway credits included Tonight in Samarkand, The Lark, The Rope Dancers, Cafe Crown, Pousse-Cafe and The Inspector General. He got his first Tony nomination for The Rope Dancers, a drama by Morton Wishengrad directed by Peter Hall.
His most significant film credits were My Fair Lady (as Zoltan Karpathy), The African Queen, The Defiant Ones and I Want to Live! His performance as a Sheriff in The Defiant Ones, the story of two escaped convicts, brought him his sole Oscar nomination in 1959.
Outspoken and socially conscious, Mr. Bikel was as well known and accomplished in his civic activities as he was an an actor. He was active and vocal in defense of the rights of actors, serving as president of Actors’ Equity in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. He also co-founded the Actors Federal Credit Union in 1962. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to serve on the National Council for the Arts in 1977. A great supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, he was in 1997 awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. "What moves me is neither ethnocentric pride nor sectarian arrogance," he once said. "I make no claim that Jewish culture is superior to other cultures. But it is mine."
Bikel was also the subject of a 2014 documentary, Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem, which he executive produced. View a clip below:
(Updated September 2, 2016)