Fiddler on the Roof

I remember the first time that I saw Fiddler on the Roof. I was 8 years old and the play was making its way across the country. We lived in Ann Arbor Michigan. We went in as the snow began to fall and by the the time we left there was about 2 feet on the ground. I loved it! I have now seen the movie umpteen times and know every song by heart.

Yesterday, I saw Fiddler on the Roof at the Minskoff Theater. The original Broadway opening was in 1964. Seeing Fiddler on the Roof again as an adult makes you think about tradition and history in a different light. The story starts off so uplifting and as the saga unfolds you can relate to the changes in tradition that the children wanted and certainly what has taken place since then. The characters certainly embrace their judaism but on the other hand they want a little more freedom. As the story goes, the townspeople are eventually pushed out by the Russian Czar because they are Jews. I thought about how that is still happening in 2004. Each townsperson tells where they are going, the US, Poland, another town in Russia. We all know from history what happens to the areas that they migrate to. Certainly going to the US at the beginning of the Russian Revolution, pre World War I, was a better place to end up. My grandfather’s parents ended up in Chicago from Russia at that time. Fiddler on the Roof tells us a story about history that is as wonderful to see today as it was 40 years ago. My kids loved it and had plenty of questions to ask.

I applaud the producers of this production. To recreate an old play and make it look new again is not easy to perform. The set design is fantastic! The stage is set with white firs surrounding the stage, and an outdoor hill to the left of the stage which is used again and again for different purposes. The musicians are in the trees to the right of the stage, and the fiddler roams or sometimes sits above the stage is a makeshift roof. At times the stage is set as a kitchen celebrating the sabbath where there are other families set into the trees also performing their sabbath ritual at the same time. You can see the entire community celebrating together yet apart. When Hodel is waiting to take the train to Kiev to meet up with Perchik, the set is gray and eerie like a lonely train station. Brilliantly staged is the dream that Tevye has in order to get Tzeitel out of his commitment to Lazar Wolf to marry. The stage is transformed into a bedroom in the midst of a crazy dream with flying characters. My favorite scene. The lighting and stage design really set the scenes for this production.

The music, as always, is tremendous. The voices are strong and glorious. There is some funny lines thrown in that are clever and fresh.

Tevye is played by Alfred Molina. He is a bit slim for a Tevye. His voice is strong and I believe his presence will become stronger as he continues to play the part. The actors in general were solid. They are all very much into their characters.

I highly recommend buying tickets before the play is opened on Broadway. I would hope that this would be a huge hit and have a great run. I am thrilled to see Fiddler on the Roof back on Broadway.