DIVA TALK: Moving Fiddler Memories Continue from Carolyn Mignini, Fyvush Finkel, Joy Hermalyn, Erik Liberman and More

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30 May 2014

Sheldon Harnick
Sheldon Harnick
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Raising the Roof: Part II
An all-star benefit concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Fiddler on the Roof, its Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick and the 100th anniversary of The National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene will be presented June 9 at 7:30 PM at New York's The Town Hall. Co-conceived and co-directed by Fiddler vets Gary John La Rosa and Erik Liberman, Raising the Roof, which will feature renditions of classic Fiddler numbers by their originators and notable successors, will boast the talents of Topol, who created the role of Tevye on the London stage, reprised his role in the film and returned to Broadway with the role in 1990, as well as Joshua Bell, Jerry Zaks, Andrea Martin, Adrienne Barbeau, Liz Larsen, Austin Pendleton, Louis Zorich, Pia Zadora, Fyvush Finkel, Joanna Merlin, Rosalind Harris, Neva Small, Robert Aberdeen, Sammy Dallas Bayes, Maurice Edwards, Tanya Everett-Bagot, Louis Genevrino, Sandra Kazan, Joe Ponazecki, Carol Sawyer, Roberta Senn, Leslie Alexander, Joanne Borts, Mike Burstyn, Rachel Coloff, T. Doyle Everett, Michael J. Farina, Kerry Frances, Deborah Grausman, Jackie Hoffman, Rebecca Hoodwin, Lori Ada Jaroslow, Frank London, Michele Marsh, Faye Menken-Schneier, Carolyn Mignini, Larry Ross, Mark Sanders, Donalyn Petrucci Shreve, Harriet Slaughter, Cheryl Stern, Mimi Turque-Marre, Lori Wilner and a choir of 36 children.

In anticipation of the one-night-only event, several stars of Fiddler — on Broadway, on film, around the country and around the world — have offered recollections of their time in the musical, which is based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem and features a book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by the aforementioned Harnick.

Enjoy these "Anecdotes from Anatevka"; click here to read last week's memories.

(Also, NYT/Folksbiene has launched a social media campaign, asking readers to share their anecdotes about any production of Fiddler in which they may have appeared as well as a photo from the production. Go to twitter.com/folksbiene or facebook.com/folksbiene to share your own memories.)

Mimi Turque-Marre

Mimi Turque-Marre
Hodel/Tzeitel, Fiddler on the Roof (Replacement, Original Broadway Company)

It was customary for a farewell party to be given to a departing actor at intermission, and our talented wardrobe mistress would present a doll costumed like the character he/she had been playing. I became pregnant while playing Hodel and was in denial about "showing" so very early. Week after week my costumes got suspiciously tighter, and I began to believe they were being washed in very hot water. At intermission at my last performance, I was given a beautiful Hodel doll, clothed in the green dress she wears at the wedding, and it had a distinctive bump. That's when I first realized how much I'd been "showing"! By the way, my "sister" Bette Midler arranged a beautiful shower for that baby who had been clearly announcing his presence on stage.

Sammy Dallas Bayes

Sammy Dallas Bayes
Original Yitzuk, Fiddler on the Roof (Original Broadway Cast, 1964)
Ensemble, Fiddler on the Roof (1971 film with Topol)
Fiddler, Fiddler on the Roof (1976 Broadway Revival)

There is a movie called “Sliding Doors.” It follows one person who steps into a subway car and follows the direction her life takes from there on... Juxtaposed, that same person starts to step into the subway car, but for some obscure reason decides to catch the next train. That small decision completely changes her life’s direction from what it might have been stepping into the first subway car.

Hence my story: It was down to the final dance call for male dancers being considered for the original company of Fiddler. The line was down to a few more than needed. Jerome Robbins and assistant Tommy Abbott were in heavy discussion as to whom of the final two would be best for what was needed. I was one of the two being discussed. Robbins was leaning towards the other dancer. Tommy was leaning towards me. From what I was told their discussion became exasperating. Both myself and the other dancer had qualities that were right for what was going to be needed (we were two completely different dancers in shape, size and technical training), but there was only one spot left. Frustrated with the circumstances, Jerry threw his hands in the air saying, “Alright! Take them both.” 

Rehearsing at the Lyceum Theatre prior to going out of town I got permission from stage manager Jim Bronson to use the stage during lunch hour. I had hit it off with another cast member with the same background training as myself and wanted to work on choreography. (I wanted to do a concert of works once we returned to New York.) Oh yes, that cast member was Sue Babel, a wonderful woman with an incredible spirit! Upon return to the city, Jerry came to see a rehearsal of my concert. Afterwards we had a coffee while he critiqued my work. He told me he was familiar with how I worked. I asked, “How’s that?” He said he heard me talking to Jim Bronson about using the stage. He would go out the stage door come in the front of house, sit in the balcony and observe my work. This led to Jerry asking me to notate all the musical numbers for Frank Loesser’s Frank Productions (now MTI). I became entrusted by Jerry to stage first class productions wherever and whenever Tommy Abbott was not available. And after a year of working on the choreography book for Frank Productions, Frank Loesser offered me my first Broadway show as a choreographer, Canterbury Tales.

“Alright! Take them both.” Those words from Jerry Robbins were my “Sliding Doors.” I have had a wonderful career born out of those words. Celebrating this 50th anniversary of the show and creative team who gave it its birth is an absolute mind-boggling event. I am honored to be a part of it. Oh, by the way, that other dancer? Duane Bodin.


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