Fiddler on the Roof – Eternal
By now you’ve read half a dozen reviews of the most recent Broadway revival of Fidder on the Roof. Sometimes critics are not offered tickets until weeks after opening; sometimes a full schedule precludes getting there in a timely fashion. I could tell you that Danny Burstein’s Tevye is captivating, that costumes (and masks) are terrific and storybook scenery evocative. I could vehemently object to the brick wall, plain-view of the conductor’s head above the pit, and contemporary lead-in preventing complete immersion, observe that choreography appears messy, and call out staging of the final migration as exceptionally striking.
Samantha Massell, Melanie Moore, Alexandra Silber (daughters) Jessica Hecht as Tevye’s wife, Golde
While all of this affects, none of it alters the rich, universal, timeless quality of the musical. Overhearing newcomers on the way out is sheer delight. To many, the story is a revelation. One can’t help but be moved as well as entertained. If you’ve never seen it, go. Take friends and relatives. Should you remember it warmly, you might want to revisit. This eloquent piece wears its heart on its sleeve.
The original 1964 production of Fiddler on the Roof won ten Tony Awards, including a special Tony for becoming the longest-running Broadway musical of all time. Set in 1905 Anatevka, a settlement of Imperial Russia, it’s based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. The milkman’s three oldest daughters almost inadvertently break with tradition in choosing their own unlikely spouses. Each relationship illuminates a direction provoked by change. Cultural and political upheaval is occurring all over Russia. Tevye and his wife Golde wrenchingly place their children’s happiness first. A pogrom scatters the village, but family and faith hold fast.
Lori Wilner (as Golde’s grandmother in a dream sequence) Jessica Hecht, Danny Burstein
Who cannot understand the sanctity of (religious) tradition, the bonds of like minded community and blood family, persecution, displacement, courage, and love-here, both vintage and new? The worst of these engender headlines every day.
Never before had a Broadway show delved into American Jewish roots with such specificity and vigor. On the one hand, investors worried that it might be considered “too Jewish” to attract popular audiences. On the other, some reviewers considered it culturally sanitized. Philip Roth writing in The New Yorker called it shtetl kitsch. With it, Messrs Stein, Bock, Harnick, and Robbins described their own collective heritage in a way, as time has proven, that makes it empathetic and enduring. And they did it without a soapbox.
Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Danny Burstein as Tevye
Fiddler on the Roof
Book by Joseph Stein
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Choreographer Hofesh Shechter
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Inspired by the work of Jerome Robbins
Set Design-Michael Yeargan; Costume Design- Catherine Zuber
53rd and Broadway