Picket Fences and Fiddler on the Roof Star Fyvush Finkel Dies at 93

The Emmy-winning television and stage actor toured the country as Tevye.

Fvush Finkel with his son Ian performing at Feinstein's/54 Below in 2014.
Fyvush Finkel with his son Ian performing at Feinstein's/54 Below in 2014.

Fyvush Finkel, Emmy-winning star of Picket Fences and longtime Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, died on Sunday, August 14, at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrant parents, Finkel began his performing career at the age of 9, acting for over 30 years in the Yiddish Theater District on Manhattan's Lower East Side and performing standup comedy in the Catskill's Borscht Belt.

He made his Broadway debut in the original 1964 production of Fiddler on the Roof, taking on the role of Mordcha the innkeeper in 1965. He returned to the role for the 1981 revival, during which he understudied Lazar Wolf, and went on to star as Tevye for several years in the national touring company.

Off-Broadway, Finkel replaced Hy Anzell as Mr. Mushnik in the original 1982 production of Little Shop of Horrors, and in 1988, he performed the role of Sam in the New York Shakespeare Festival revival of the Yiddish classic Cafe Crown — a performance that earned him an Obie Award and a Drama Desk nomination.

Finkel landed his best-known television role in 1992 when he was cast as public defender Douglas Wambaugh in the David E. Kelley series Picket Fences, earning an Emmy Award in 1994. He reprised his collaboration with Kelley when he took the role of teacher Harvey Lipschultz in Boston Public, which ran from 2000-2004.

Finkel was married to Trudi Lieberman from March 1947 until her death in 2008. They had two sons: Ian, a musical arranger, and Elliot, a concert pianist, with whom he performed at New York's Feinstein's/54 Below supper club in 2014. The three performed together earlier this summer (July 17 and 18) at Barrington Stage company as part of the theater's summer cabaret series.