Fiddler on the Roof. Music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, book by Joseph Stein. Bartlett Sher directed. Broadway Theatre, New York.
Fiddler on the Roof takes place over 100 years ago, but it couldn’t be more in tune with the societal issues of today. The iconic musical is playing at the Broadway Theatre through the end of the year and it’s a can’t-miss for 2016.
It tells the story of Anatevka, an eastern-European Jewish town in the early 1900s, and Tevye, a husband and father of five doing his best to provide for his family and adapt to changing times.
Tevye’s situation isn’t exclusive to the village of Anatevka; it’s still happening a century later all over the world.
In too many other lands, people are still driven from their homes. And even when the refugees survive, their way of life is altered. In Fiddler, when the Jews are kicked out of Anatevka, Tevye has to move apart from his family, from his neighbors, and from his rabbi. There’s no one place for these people to go, and this production masterfully makes the point as the show concludes.
One character is optimistic that she’ll get to the Holy Land, and fortunately Israel now is an option for Jews like Yenta the Matchmaker to feel free from persecution. But even there, due to the instability and hostility from its neighbors, many don’t feel the security they desire. Elsewhere in the region, like Iraq and Syria, people are forced to flee home to avoid terrorist killings. Their situation is eerily similar to how we see the villagers of Anatevka go through eight shows a week on Broadway.
On top of that, there’s the recurring theme of adaptation to the rest of the world, such as allowing women to choose husbands for themselves, something that still isn’t universal. Another link to modern times is the character of Perchik, a young and university-educated revolutionary (well-played by Ben Rappaport) who makes points similar to Bernie Sanders about the top one percent. Over a hundred years later, we still don’t have resolution on this.
This production of Fiddler on the Roof is sensational. The dancing, choreographed by Hofesh Shechter based on the orginal by Jerome Robbins, looks authentic and the music is as appealing as ever. The performances are all fantastic, but the most mesmerizing of all is that of Danny Burstein as Tevye. (Bustein photo, on the right, by Joan Marcus.)
It’s easy to fall into the trap of acting goofy and showy as Tevye, but Burstein hits just the right note (not to mention his spectacular singing voice). You feel amazing empathy for the man doing his very best to get by with a little help from God. Tevye seems to be a role that Burstein was born to play.
Other standouts in the cast include Alix Korey as a vivid Yente, Adam Kantor as an appealing Motel, and the sweet trio of daughters, Alexandra Silber, Samantha Massell and Melanie Moore. Ted Sperling did a superb job updating the orchestrations and conducting.
If you make the decision to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Broadway Theatre, not only will you see a superstar commanding the stage like a biblical patriarch, you’ll very easily draw more than a few modern-day connections to the same problems that plagued the tiny village of Anatevka.
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