Theodore Bikel: Laughter Through Tears

Yesterday I was privileged to see Theodore Bikel’s performance of his one man show, SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS. In it, he channels the life of Sholem Aleichem by combining his own life and twenty-two of Sholem Aleichem’s characters from his plays and stories. I loved it because it was like seeing the past before your eyes, a past that I had only been able to imagine through plays such as this one.

Theodore Bikel

Photo by Stan Barough – Courtesy of Theatre J

Theodore Bikel is at this point eighty eight years young. He performs a one hour and forty-five minute tour-de-force performance without an intermission. He moves from one part of the stage to another and sings Yiddish standards to enhance the themes. The translation of the songs is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the play so that even those with minimal understanding of Yiddish, still comprehend and appreciate the interludes. Of course if you do understand Yiddish, it will move you to tears.

Thank you, Theodore Bikel for bringing Sholem Aleichem to life for another generation.


One thought on “Theodore Bikel: Laughter Through Tears

  1. I just discovered this amazing blog which connect the Andy Griffith show plots to Sholem Aleichem:
    “Rob Reiner recalled that around the same time he was trying to get The Dick Van Dyke Show on the air, Leonard hired Ruben, who was Jewish, to be the day-to-day main producer of The Andy Griffith Show.

    Reiner noted that Ruben, along with Andy Griffith himself, shaped the show into the classic it became. Several of the first season episodes had Sheriff Andy acting in a comic buffoon manner. However, Griffith realized early on that the writers had created a town full of eccentric characters and his character worked better as a “Lincolnesque” straight man for them. Ruben fostered this transition, writing several episodes himself and supervising all the scripts during the five years he was the series’ producer.

    While Reiner didn’t put it this way exactly, it seemed to me that Ruben had pretty consciously turned Griffith’s character from a fool into a wise, small town Jewish “rabbi.” This is the type of rabbi featured in many Jewish stories; a rabbi who gives sage advice to a “cast” of eccentric members of his congregation or town. (Sholom Alecheim, of Fiddler on the Roof fame, wrote several such stories.)”

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