Much to rejoice about. Two fabulous pictures in the Washington Post today in Celia Wren’s very good review, following up on Nelson’s Pressley’s very nice Monday feature, both on the front page of the Style section. When Theo Bikel is on the front page of the Style section, we all do well and Washington’s a little bit more heymische a town (which means “infused with a sense of home” in Yiddish). Hell, Washington’s a bit more Jewish in general with Theo and his vast catalogue of songs and stories in town. And he’s bringing much holiday cheer with him, and passing it onto our audience, and to our very appreciative theater as well. Take a gander at all this good press, starting with the most deserving of mention, in DC Theatre Scene.
Here’s an excerpt from Joel Markowitz’s wonderful piece:
On opening night, you could feel the anticipation and love from his appreciative audience as they awaited his grand entrance. Greeted by loud applause, this legendary performer, singer, activist, and now at age 84 – playwright – dressed in a tan three-piece suit, a white shirt and red tie and white gloves (as he explained as Sholom Aleichem, to prevent himself from biting his nails to the bone and bleeding)- walked into a soft spotlight – with Projection Designer Zack Borovay beaming pictures on the front arch of Robbie Hayes’ set from Theo’s roles in The Disputation, Sound of Music, and 200 Hotels, and of course Theo asTevye (a role he has played over 2000 times). And then Theo Bikel – the actor – began, speaking about being remembered after he is gone, “What will you remember when these seats are cold? Will you remember me? What will remain?” The first tears started to flow in the house.
When he started singing his first song, “Veer Vet Blain” (”Who Will Remain”- Bikel provided the English translations for the Yiddish songs used in the show) and began the first of many “Yum hubbub by bum by byby bums,” laughter, hand clapping, foot tapping and “nachas” – immense joy – spread throughout the house, and it didn’t take long for the audience to “Yum yububum” along with him. The audience went messhugah! And why not? With a twinkle in his eye, and that booming voice and clear diction (unmiked may I say) and that gorgeous singing voice, Bikel oozed self-confidence and charm.
Immediately, he was off and running, sharing his love for his heritage, for Yiddish, the music of his forefathers and his youth, and most of all- to fulfill his goal of teaching all of us- Jew and gentile – that Sholom Aleichem was no “one hit” playwright and author.
To read the rest of the love letter to LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS, click here.