Herschel Bernardi

Sings Fiddler on the Roof/Show Stopper

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Since an actor's stage performances disappear after they are made before small audiences, while his or her television and film work is not only disseminated more widely but also preserved, it is easier to remember an actor like Herschel Bernardi for his numerous character parts or even for his voicing of Charlie the Tuna and the Jolly Green Giant on commercials than to appreciate his starring performances in such Broadway musicals as Bajour, Fiddler on the Roof, and Zorba. When he came in as a replacement Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof in November 1965, however, he was well-accepted, giving a more musical and personal performance than the clownish Zero Mostel, who originated the role. Columbia Records had him make an album of the score and even had librettist Joseph Stein write continuity, creating a kind of alternate version of the show. Bernardi also got to sing a couple of songs cut from the stage production, notably the moving "When Messiah Comes." The album made the charts, and after Zorba Bernardi went back into the studio to create a more varied collection of show songs, again with commentary between numbers, Show Stopper. This two-CD reissue combines those two complementary albums and even adds the contents of three non-LP singles Bernardi also cut for Columbia. The result is a wonderful collection of show music performed by a stage veteran whose personality comes across warmly even in the audio-only format. Bernardi is a precursor to Mandy Patinkin in his ability to create characters -- sometimes more than one in a song -- and make them believable. Among the singles tracks, "Pencil Marks on the Wall" is a powerful anti-war statement and "In My Own Lifetime" suggests that Bernardi would have made a terrific Mayer Rothschild in The Rothschilds. (Of course, he probably did.)

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