Tevye, Tzeitel, Golde and all the other memorable characters of "Fiddler on the Roof" graced the big screen at the University of Judaism (UJ) on Sunday, April 25, but it was the audience who stole the show.
Five-hundred people -- some bold enough to come in costume -- sang along with the memorable songs of "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man" and other classic "Fiddler" tunes. The UJ singalong event capitalizes on the popularity of participatory shows, such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding" and "Grandma Sylvia's Funeral."
UJ staff passed out kitschy props highlighting key points in the film -- ring pops for "Matchmaker" and boxes of gilded chocolate coins for "If I Were A Rich Man." When the sun set on Friday evening at Tevye's house, the audience munched on mini challahs.
Participants, drawn into the excitement of the production, led performances of their own. During the graveyard scene of the film, Sandy Erkus, dressed as the ghostly Fruma Sarah, ran about the theater in her tattered wedding gown, reviving the role of Lazar Wolf's dead wife. Erkus said she didn't plan to steal the spotlight, but fellow audience members coaxed her to get up and play the part. "Me, being a ham and a half -- wait that's not kosher is it? -- I went up," she recalled with a laugh.
At intermission, timed with the wedding of Motel and Tzeitel, Tevye's oldest daughter, the UJ treated the audience to a mock wedding reception with sliced wedding cake, champagne and even a fiddler playing in the background.
Sandy Kanan, wearing a shawl over her head and a long cloak-like dress, enjoyed coming out and dressing up like Yente the Matchmaker.
"I love getting into it," said Kanan, who finds the program an entertaining lesson in Jewish tradition.
"This is so important; this is our culture; this is our heritage," she said. "There is a lot of truth in it."
The next "Fiddler" singalong has been set for March 20, 2005. A "Grease" singalong is also being planned. For more information, call the UJ's Department of Continuing Education at (310) 440-1246.