‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Still a Perfect Match for Broadway

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Still a Perfect Match for Broadway

I cannot tell you how grateful I am that my first-ever experience seeing "Fiddler on the Roof" was this Broadway revival. Sure, I knew a few songs beforehand (because everyone knows “If I Were a Rich Man”), but I was not aware how truly epic this show is, nor the emotional impact it would have on my heart.

From left, Alexandra Silber, Danny Burstein and Adam Kantor (©Joan Marcus)

This popular musical set in Anatevka, Russia at the turn of the 20th Century portrays how one married Jewish man with five daughters navigates life when there is a rift between the old ways of marrying to get ahead in society (“Matchmaker, Matchmaker”) and the newer ideas of marrying for love. And if relationship woes weren’t troublesome enough, pogroms and revolution are happening outside the village and drawing ever closer to Anatevka. The levels at which the family and its community fight to uphold certain observances while allowing wiggle room for others leads to both some of the more uplifting as well as heartbreaking moments in musical theater. It’s hard when unconditional love faces strict conditions when it comes to religion and politics. Can love conquer all, or will it leave all conquered?

With "Fiddler on the Roof," audience members get an immediate crash course on the hierarchy of a Jewish family (“Tradition”), witness the rituals of the Shabbat (“Sabbath Prayer”) and those of a traditional Jewish wedding—chuppah and all (“Sunrise, Sunset” and “The Wedding”). Yes, it helps if you know a bit about Jewish customs and colloquialisms beforehand, but Dad Jokes are Dad Jokes and as the patriarch Tevye, Danny Burstein delivers them with panatshe (that’s Yiddish for “panache”—you’re welcome). Burstein was meant to play this role, as he so perfectly depicts the doting father, stubborn husband, respected village leader and a devoted, yet sometimes conflicted, follower of the faith. Tevye would love to spend his days studying religious texts with the learned men but knows he must provide for his family and try to do what’s best for his daughters with regard to their wedded futures.

For as culturally specific as "Fiddler on the Roof" is, this show is astonishingly universal and eerily timely. Religious persecution, socioeconomic status affecting one’s identity and falling in love with someone your family, religion and/or society has deemed inappropriate are plot points that are always relevant.

Though "Fiddler on the Roof" is considered a drama, there were many lighter moments that made me laugh out loud. Burstein’s Tevye is quite sassy, especially when talking with God and also his wife, Golde (the amazing Jessica Hecht). There are tense interactions too, of course, but this musical is largely a joyful celebration of life and love among desperate times. The dancing—oh that beautiful, mesmerizing dancing—gave me life. Hofesh Shechter’s Tony Award nominated choreography is a more modern interpretation of cultural movement than Jerome Robbins’ numbers were for the original Broadway production. This contemporary feel helps further connect today’s audiences with this old school story.

Whether you’re a longtime fan of the show or an Anatevka newcomer like me, you are bound to enjoy yourself at this gorgeous production. A sheynem dank (“thank you very much”) to the beyond talented cast and crew for their amazing work. "Fiddler on the Roof" is currently playing at the Broadway Theatre.

L’chaim! To life!


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