Tevye Comes to Services, and Pulls a Crowd
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Tevye Comes to Services, and Pulls a Crowd

Steven Skybell, center, as Tevye, and cast of the Yiddish “Fiddler” at Temple Emanu-El. 
Courtesy of Streicker Center
Steven Skybell, center, as Tevye, and cast of the Yiddish “Fiddler” at Temple Emanu-El. Courtesy of Streicker Center

A crowd of 2,400 people at a Friday night prayer service these days would seem like a miracle of miracles.

Yet, cast members from the historic Off-Broadway run of the Yiddish version of “Fiddler on the Roof” made it a reality last week. They appeared in costume and delighted those at Temple Emanu-El’s Streicker Center, kicking off their four-song performance with the apt song, given the venue, “Sabbath Prayer.” Performing as part of the temple’s “Friday Night Live” worship service/performance series, the cast later sang “Matchmaker,” “Sunrise Sunset” and “Do You Love Me?”

Directed by Joel Grey, The National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene’s production opened in July 2018 and had four extended runs at the Museum of Jewish Heritage before moving Off Broadway to Stage 42, where it played to a sold-out run and rave reviews before closing on Jan. 5.

“It was really beautiful to see this here,” said Victorina Froelich of Nyack. “The show has the perfect combination of love, fear and joy, and the performers were great.”

Temple Emanu-El’s senior rabbi,  Joshua Davidson, said it was an honor for his synagogue to host the talent.

“It gave us the joy that Shabbat offers in the most wonderful way with one of the most beloved stories in contemporary Jewish life,” the rabbi told The Jewish Week.

“Sabbath Prayer” was beautifully rendered and Stephanie Lynne Mason, as Hodl, showed off her vocal technique in “Matchmaker.” Powerful versions of “Sunrise Sunset” and “Do You Love Me?” were seamlessly followed by the service’s regular staple, “Aleinu,” as the congregation continued the service.

Steven Skybell, who got high marks as Tevye by giving the iconic character an Everyman quality that pared away the bombast, was mesmerizing. He said it was the first time he has performed the songs as part of a service.

“It was amazing,” he said.

Carol Zach, 73, said she saw the show on Broadway when she was a teenager, and was not surprised by the success of the Yiddish version.

“There’s such great power that even if you don’t speak Yiddish,” she said, “it gets the message across.”

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