By: Sandi Durell
This is a new look at the ever- appealing Fiddler on the Roof helmed by director Bartlett Sher whose ultimate goal was truthfulness in telling the story of Tevye and his family living in a Shtetl in the small Ukranian village of Anetevka. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that Sher’s grandparents lived similarly. We first meet Tevye, alone on stage, as a contemporary visitor back in the old country perhaps seeking information about his history until the famed Fiddler emerges, along with the Jewish villagers from the back of the stage. The sparseness of scenery is glaringly present. The original Fiddler was seen on Broadway in 1964, this being a fifth revival of the Sholom Aleichem stories.
Tevye is played by the charming, unassuming Danny Burstein who spends an inordinate amount of hours talking to or about his creator, adding a sense of tenderness, humor and great humanity as he goes about his daily duties as a dairyman, schlepping a cart around because his horse is on sick leave.
Tevye and his wife, Golde (played shrewish and pragmatically by Jessica Hecht), are blessed with five daughters. They all work hard but it is incumbent upon tradition that the matchmaker Yente (a perfectly cast Alix Korey) find them husbands, and marriages must be approved by the parents, beginning with the oldest, Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber), who has secretly betrothed herself to Motel, the tailor (a vibrant singing Adam Kantor) albeit Lazar Wolf (Adam Dannheisser), the wealthy butcher, has his eye on capturing Tzeitel for his wife.
Next in line is second daughter Hodel (a lovely charmer of a soprano, Samantha Massell) who finds herself attracted to a stranger who comes to the village, a free-thinking socialist student Perchik (the effusive Ben Rappaport). Third daughter in line is bookish Chava (Melanie Moore) who winds up falling for a non-Jew, Fyedka (Nick Rehberger). Although the Jews and gentiles live together, the comfort zone is iffy at best. But times they are a changin’ and Tevye must find a way to assuage the traditions of many generations.
The nostalgia of the rich musical score by Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), with book by Joseph Stein, plays beautifully on the heartstrings as we hear “To Life, “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Do You Love Me?”and more. Straight from Israel is choreographer Hofesh Schecter whose work is inspired by that of the original – Jerome Robbins, especially notable in the shuckle (shimmy) – “If I Were a Rich Man” -and bottle dance – “The Wedding.”
The ensemble is large. Catherine Zuber’s costumes complement and are outstanding especially in “Tevye’s Dream” consisting of actors on stilts with huge angular green masks connoting the dead relatives. The scenic design by Michael Yeargan is minimal, with what appears to be cardboard looking houses floating above the stage, and wooden blinds that turn on stage and from which characters appear as actors walk sparse trees on and off.
A shout-out to Jessica Vosk who plays Lazar Wolf’s dead wife, Fruma-Sarah. – what a role!
A most noteworthy aspect of this production is its timeliness as the world deals with bigotry and refugees – the ever present theme in the Fiddler storyline.
Photos: Joan Marcus
Fiddler on the Roof, Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, 212 541-8457 Run time: 2 hrs, 45 min.
https://www.theaterpizzazz.com/meet-the-cast-creatives-fiddler-on-the-roof/ (meet the cast and creatives)