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Emmy Award winning actor Fyvesh Finkel, a fixture in David E. Kelley dramas “Picket Fences” and “Boston Public” died Sunday morning in Manhattan. He was 93 and was suffering from heart related issues in recent weeks.
Born Philip “Fyvesh” Finkel on Oct. 9, 1922 in Brooklyn, New York, his career in Yiddish theater started at age nine, as a boy soprano. He became one of the highest-paid actors in the Second Avenue theater district — singing and dancing the jitterbug. And he made his debut on Broadway in the original 1964 production of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” joining the cast as Mordcha, the innkeeper, in 1965. The production ran through July 2, 1972. Finkel then played Lazar Wolf, the butcher, in the limited run 1981 Broadway revival, and eventually played the lead role of Tevye the milkman for years in the national touring company.
Shortly afterward, Finkel succeeded Hy Anzell in the role of Mr. Mushnik in the Off-Broadway musical “Little Shop of Horrors.” Then in 1988, Finkel’s work as “Sam” in the New York Shakespeare Festival revival of the Yiddish classic Cafe Crown earned him an Obie Award and a Drama Desk nomination.
Finkel’s role as public defender as public defender Douglas Wambaugh in “Picket Fences” earned him as Emmy Award as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1994. In addition to “Picket Fences” and “Boston Public,” Finkel was a regular in the short-lived remake of “Fantasy Island” on ABC in 1998-99. His film credits include “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Seize the Day,” “For Love or Money,” “Nixon,” and the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man.”
Finkel’s wife Trudi Lieberman passed away in 2008 after 61 years of marriage. He is survived by two sons: Ian, a music arranger and xylophone virtuoso, and Elliot, a concert pianist.