Theodore Bikel, the Tony-nominated actor, folk singer and original Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music on Broadway, has died in Los Angeles aged 91.Bikel, for whom Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the musical’s famous song Edelweiss, died at the UCLA medical centre on Tuesday, his publicist, B Harlan Böll, confirmed.
Theodore Bikel, the Tony-nominated actor, folk singer and original Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music on Broadway, has died in Los Angeles aged 91. Bikel, for whom Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the musical’s famous song Edelweiss, died at the UCLA medical centre on Tuesday, his publicist, B Harlan Böll, confirmed.
Bookpleasures.com is honored and excited to have as our guest Academy Award nominated Broadway star and original Capt von Trapp opposite Mary Martin, Theodore Bikel.
Theo celebrates his 90th birthday and 75 years in Show Business with a New Edition of his memoir, the release of 20 Albums on iTunes on Rhino Records and Warner Bros. Music and the theatrical release of Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem co-written and performed by Theo Bikel and based on Sholom Aleichem's writings from the immortal musical Fiddler On The Roof), now being screened on the festival circuit and to be release theatrical early next year.
On Broadway, Theo is best known for playing the role of Tevye and he has played it elsewhere over 2,000 times, which is more than any other actor. He also created the role of Captain von Trapp on Broadway in the Sound of Music where the song Edelweiss was written for him to sing. He performed in over 35 stage productions in venues from Broadway to Israel to London's West End.
On the Silver Screen, Theo's career spans more than 150 screen roles (including an Oscar-nominated turn in The Defiant Ones). He made his film debut in the African Queen in 1951. From the Southern sheriff in The Defiant Ones (Oscar nomination), to the submarine captain in The Russians are Coming, to the Hungarian linguist in My Fair Lady he acted in over 30 major films.
On Television, Theo's career spans 35 years. His roles on TV cover an amazing range of characterizations: from a Scottish policeman in Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, to Henry Kissinger in The Final Days and the role which earned him his Emmy Award in 1988 for his role as the 82-year old Harris Newmark. He also played the German butcher infatuated with Edith Bunker in All in the Family.
As a recording artist, Theo has recorded 37 albums-over 20 on the Elektra label. Considered one of the founding fathers of American folk music he has sung with Pete Seeger and the Weavers and is responsible for the establishment of world folk music, singing and recording songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Russian.
Norm: Thanks Theo for participating in our interview
How did you get started
in acting? What keeps you going?
Theo: It actually began with a small role in Tevye and His Seven Daughters with no music. I played a constable with only 29 words. Then, as it is now, the relationship with the audience keeps you going.
Norm: What do you wish you'd known before you started acting?
Theo: That's difficult. I have developed a serenity now, over the years, which I didn't have then.
Norm: How much research do you undertake for a role and how do you set about working on your roles?
Theo: It depends upon the role. Some require little. Tevye is my own Grandfather. I already knew him well. Other roles, like Zorba, were a further reach and I needed to look deeper into their background to develop the character.
Norm: As a follow up, what kept you going in playing the part of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof for so many years?
Theo: That's easy. Treat your audience as if they are new each time. Maybe a few have seen it, but I treat each audience as if it is their first time. If the experience is new for them, then it is new for me.
Norm: Are you aware of any particular influences on your acting?
Theo: Oh quite a few. When I lived in Israel, it was mostly Stanislavski. While in England, it was a completely different kind of approach. Stanislavski focuses on the inside out and my work in England took me from the outside in. Watching the work of Paul Muni, who went from the Yiddish theatre to American films, was extremely influential. I like to think of his career as a journey that was similar to my own.
Norm: What has been the best part of being an actor, musician, and author?
Theo: The best part is versatility of it all. Each offers its own rewards, but simply being able to do all of them is the greatest experience.
Norm: Which of your fictional characters would you most like to have a drink with, and why?
Theo: Zorba the Greek, because that was a person, when I researched, I started to envy and then tried to emulate. There was an extraordinary freedom that doesn't exist in the world or the arts anymore.
Norm: What would you like to say to actors, musicians, writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Theo: Everyone has a life or experiences worth sharing. My advice is to be curious. It is curiosity that we seem to have lost because we are spoon fed everything on TV and in the news today. Look into things beyond yourself. Investigate all aspects of life and not just what you need for your job.
Norm: Could you tell our readers a little about Theo: An Autobiography and how did you decide you were ready to write the book?
Theo: Having lived for so many decades and worked in so many arenas, I felt the time had simply come and it was important for me to share with others the decisions I made and why. I tried to look at myself from various angles and share what I discovered.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Theo: Where and when to write. I had to write on planes and trains, in dressing rooms … in bits and pieces and send them to the publisher. It took quite some time to do that. Some writers can say, “Ill write all the day, today.” But, I'm not that kind of writer.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your book Theo: An Autobiography?
Theo: I still prefer a bookstore, but I suppose most people today can go on the Internet and visit MY WEBSITE or FOLLOW HERE TO AMAZON.COM
What are your upcoming projects?
Theo: Mostly the showing of my new film, Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem. I'm looking forward to visiting the cities and film festivals that are scheduled for the immediate future. There are film festivals in Phoenix, Atlanta, D.C., Palm Beach, Sarasota and Los Angeles, and possibly Chicago, New York and Ontario. I'd also like to do another concert, but not in the immediate future.
Norm: Thanks once again
and good luck with all of your future endeavours. May you live and
perform well past 120.