Audience members compete for best costume awards during “Fiddler on the Roof” evening at the Laemmle Town Center in Encino. Photo courtesy of Laemmle
What does a Jew who doesn’t fancy the traditional visit to a Chinese restaurant do on Christmas Eve?
In Los Angeles, the hottest ticket to mark the holiday may be for the 11th annual “Fiddler on the Roof” extravaganza that Laemmle Theatres expects to fill its eight locations throughout the Southland.
“In the very beginning, only about 100 people showed up,” said Greg Laemmle, proprietor of the eponymous movie-house chain. “This year, the eight theaters will hold around 1,800 people, and based on last year’s attendance, we expect an early and complete sellout.”
The evening is scheduled to start with a screening of the classic movie version of “Fiddler,” with the audience encouraged to sing along to such songs as “If I Were a Rich Man,” “To Life” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.” Patrons are encouraged to arrive in costumes modeled on the musical’s characters, and prizes will be given for the best creations.
At each of the venues, a host or hostess, usually with a show-business background, is expected to keep the action going by leading the singing, quizzing patrons on “Fiddler” trivia, and passing out the prizes.
Laemmle urged patrons not to hold back.
“Here is your once-a-year chance to be the star of the shtetl,” he said. “Sing your heart out alongside Topol and the other screen legends. And it’s OK if you haven’t memorized all the songs. We provide the lyrics.”
The initial idea for the show’s format came to Laemmle when he attended a screening of “The Sound of Music” at the Hollywood Bowl, where the audience sang along lustily.
For Jews, the Christmas season often has a special meaning, depending on their backgrounds and historical memories.
“My grandmother was born in czarist Russia, and when she came to America, she used to tense up and get nervous with the approach of Christmas. That was the time when the pogroms started in the old country,” Laemmle said.
Although the “Fiddler” evening is aimed primarily at a Jewish audience, non-Jews also attend. However, there is wide disagreement on the actual numbers, with Laemmle estimating that audiences were “largely Jewish, but not exclusively so.”
USC adjunct professor Gary Wexler, who hosted a past “Fiddler” evening at the Laemmle theater in Pasadena, had a more evenly balanced estimate.
Wexler said that during his warm-up banter, he asked how many audience members were not Jewish and, to his surprise, more than half raised their hands.
Wexler said he remembered thinking, “Don’t these people want to be with their families on Christmas Eve singing Christmas carols, rather than “If I Were a Rich Man” or “Anatevka”?
Other former hosts related experiences with more heavily Jewish audiences, among them Naomi Ackerman, founder of the Advot Project, which works with disadvantaged youth.
“What I found most extraordinary was how people knew every word of every song in the movie,” Ackerman wrote in an email. “Not to mention that people were fighting over who would answer the trivia questions. How amazing that people knew so many little tidbits and information about this production…. It was a warm and haimish evening, and we felt like we re-created Anatevka, with all its goodness, at the Laemmle theater.”
“Here is your once-a-year chance to be the star of the shtetl.” — Greg Laemmle
USC professor Ron Wolfson described the audience mix as “kippah-wearing Orthodox Jews, leaders of Conservative and Reform synagogues, secular Jews, rabbis, Israelis, Persians and Russians.”
Since its Broadway debut in 1964, “Fiddler” has been staged constantly somewhere in the world, as author and journalist Barbara Isenberg documents in her book, with arguably the longest title ever — “Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical.”
Among other tidbits, the book reveals that the play’s first draft bore the title of “The Old Country,” then was tentatively changed to “Tevye” and later to “Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away.”
Stage producer Hal Prince had the final say, and he opted for “Fiddler on the Roof” because the title suggested immediately that the then-unknown play was a musical.
Testifying to the durability of the musical is its current national tour and fifth Broadway revival.
A month ago, a performance at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore was marred when a middle-aged man stood up during intermission and started shouting “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!”
With the recent killing of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue fresh in mind, numerous audience members panicked and rushed for the exits. It later turned out that the man had been drinking heavily and meant to express his opposition to President Trump by comparing him to Hitler.
Asked for comment on the incident, Laemmle said he realized that “security is on people’s minds” and that he had taken necessary precautions without compromising the event’s Jewish tone.
“When Christmas Eve occurs during the Hanukkah period, we display a lighted menorah In the lobby, and when it coincides with Shabbat, we say the blessings over the wine and challah,” he said.
All performances at the eight Laemmle theaters will start at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 24. Tickets, which can be purchased online at Laemmle.com/Fiddler, are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and children, with further discounts for Laemmle Premiere Cardholders.
Netanyahu’s support for the settlement enterprise, is believed to have been reigned by former democratic US president Barack Obama who was in office from January 2009 to January 2017.
A man photographs a woman as she stands next to a mural depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and Is
Spending on West Bank settlements spiked by 39% in 2017, the first year US President Donald Trump was in office, the left-wing group Peace Now reported on Tuesday.
Weekend work permits for Eurovision complicate Netanyahu’s coalition bargaining with ultra-Orthodox parties
Israeli singer and past Eurovision winner Dana International at the Orange Carpet event in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2019.
Israeli singer and past Eurovision winner Dana International at the Orange Carpet event in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2019.Tomer Appelbaum
Seeking to quell ultra-Orthodox anger over holding the Eurovision Song Contest’s final in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday it was an “individual international event” not sponsored by the state, and that the government doesn’t want to violate the Sabbath.
French Holocaust denier Alain Soral. Photo: Egalite et Réconciliation.
The mayor of one of southern France’s most picturesque towns expressed fury on Tuesday after learning that a group of right-wing activists and conspiracy theorists — including convicted Holocaust denier Alain Soral — were planning to hold a “summer school” there at the end of August.
“I say it clearly, Soral is not welcome here,” Alexandre Reynal — mayor of the town of Amelie-les-Bain in the spectacular Pyrénées-Orientales region — told a local news outlet on Tuesday.
I urge all visitors to join me in a conspiracy to violate the UN Security Council Resolution…Obama, himself, engineered the Resolution. He pushed it through the Security Council despite some reservations by other members, including Egypt, which believed that the Resolution itself could become a barrier to a negotiated two-state solution. After all, if Israel’s control over Judaism’s holiest site is deemed illegal, then Israel would have to negotiate its legality with the Palestinians.
The ruling Law and Justice Party views Poland as a victim of World War II, and that therefore Poland should not be required to pay damages to other victims.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacts after receiving his nomination during a government s
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacts after receiving his nomination during a government swearing-in ceremony in Warsaw, Poland, December 11, 2017..
Only three-quarters of a century after Der Stürmer incentivized the mass murder of Jews by dehumanizing them, we see a revival of such bigoted caricatures.
I do not believe in free speech for me, but not for thee. But I do believe in condemning those who hide behind the First Amendment to express anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, sexist or racist views.
One of the most influential newspapers in the world, the Jewish-owned New York Times decided to present the Jews with a gift in honor of the last day of Passover – a major Jewish holiday – an antisemitic caricature. The controversial cartoon shows US President Donald Trump as a blind man with a skullcap on his head, being led by a dog that looks like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And to make sure the reader knows it is indeed the Israeli premier, the dog has a Star of David dangling from its collar.
Last week, Jared Kushner, one of the administration’s point men on the Middle East, dispensed with the term “two-state solution” in its impending peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. “The two-state solution has failed,” he said.
The “two-state solution” does not appear in the 1993 Oslo Accords, which called only for “interim self-government” for the Palestinians. The goal was a negotiated final status agreement, in which independence was not specified.
Religious fervor always picks up before the Jewish holidays. Not surprisingly, Israeli undercover police arrested Jewish activists from the Hozrim L’Har (Returning to the Mount) organization early Friday afternoon, just before the onset of the Passover holiday, after an apparent attempt to bring a young goat on to the Temple Mount for a self-proclaimed sacrificial rite. Indeed, this drama plays itself out every year, but according to Jerusalem police, this year a record of at least twelve members of the organization were arrested throughout the course of the day on counts of disturbing the peace.
Every year when Passover eve arrives, I do my best not to think about that night; to allow the joy of cherished rituals meant to renew our family’s tribal history and faith envelop us in its warm glow as whoever among the kids and grandkids it’s our turn to host partake of the matzoh, bitter herbs, and wine. Often – actually most often – I succeed.