Born 1924 in Vienna, Theodore Bikel was thirteen when he and his parents left Austria for Palestine. Fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German with a respectable command of English and French, he intended to study and eventually teach comparative linguistics.
In 1946 Bikel entered London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from which he graduated with honors two years later. It was also at this time that he began to develop a serious interest in the guitar and folk music.
But he was first to make his mark as an actor. Sir Laurence Olivier was so impressed with Bikel's performance in several small London theatre productions that he offered him a roll in his production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Vivien Leigh. Bikel soon took over the second male lead, Mitch, in the play.
From Streetcar on, Theodore Bikel's career has been illuminated by superior stage and screen portrayals. In London he won acclaim playing the Russian Colonel in Ustinov's The Love Of Four Colonels and on Broadway his roster of memorable performances includes Tonight in Samarkand, The Rope Dancers, The Lark and the original Broadway production of The Sound Of Music in which he created the role of Baron con Trapp. Nationally he starred in a number of other plays, including tours of Zorba and Fiddler on the Roof. After having played the role of Tevye over 2,000 times since 1967, Bikel's Tevye continues to garner the highest praise from audiences and critics nation-wide whenever he repeats the role.
Theodore Bikel's television career in the United States spans some 35 years. His roles on TV cover an amazing range of characterizations: from a Scottish policeman in Alfred Hitchcock Presents to a Mad Bomber, a South African Boer on the hunt in New York (Equalizer) to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, to Henry Kissinger in The Final Days and the role which earned him his L.A. Emmy award in 1988 for his role on public television as the 82-year old Harris Newmark.
Theodore Bikel has recorded 20 record albums mostly for the Elektra label in addition to a few releases on Columbia, Peter Pan, and Reprise. He is also an accomplished translator of song lyrics.
Theodore Bikel was a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival.