BWW CD Review: Broadway Records' FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (2016 Broadway Cast Recording) Charms with Nuance
When I saw the current Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, I enjoyed it. So, it was a surprise when I didn't feel the same way about Broadway Records' Fiddler on the Roof (2016 Broadway Cast Recording) upon first listen. Fiddler on the Roof is one of my top four favorite shows of all time, so I gave the album another couple of listens, and the charm of this record revealed itself to me.
Just as Tevye struggles with notions of tradition in the musical, I had to battle my own feelings of nostalgia when I first listened to the record. The iconic 1971 film adaptation is what I think of when I think of this show. That soundtrack is the album I go to when I want to hear this gorgeous score. Needless to say, Bartlett Sher's direction and Ted Sperling's music direction and new orchestrations approach the work in a different way than the film does.
Aurally, Sperling draws out the rustic simplicity inherent in the score. The musicians on violin, clarinet, accordion, mandolin, and even cimbalom are featured throughout the album, giving Jerry Bock's distinct and instantly hummable melodies a different timbre and scope. This more grounded approach is echoed in the vocal lines, where Sperling explains that he kept the words at the forefront. Thus, the vocal harmonies are kept simple and earthy. Upon my first listen, I felt that the vocal lines sounded too technical. They almost sounded like a demo offered to another singer to learn the vocal lines and then embellish upon their own. Yet, upon multiple listening, the nuance worked into each note and lyric became more and more apparent.
It's hard to dislodge Topol's legendary performance as Tevye from the memory, and across this album I am very appreciative of Danny Burstein's approach to the character. His vibrant vocals ensure that listeners are empathetic toward Tevye as Burstein creates a well-rounded character, even on the album. Yet, I would lying if I didn't say that I miss Topol's gravitas, his ability to create soul shaking claps of thunder with his instrument, and his unmistakable power. Burstein simply creates a gentler Tevye.
Standout moments on the album are plentiful. Kelly Hall-Tompkins' violin solos resonate with beauty and life, Andrew Sterman's Kelzmer clarinet solos are rich and evocative, and Jim Hershman's mandolin playing during "Tevye's Dream" is enchanting. Adam Kantor is the first Motel I have experienced to perform "Miracle of Miracles" in a way that makes me feel that the song is essential to the production and not a total bore. His warm tenor makes the tune an absolute delight. Jessica Vosk's ghostly wailing as Fruma-Sarah on "Tevye's Dream" is spirited and inspired. Samantha Massell's radiant instrument makes "Far From the Home I Love" gorgeously heartbreaking.
Broadway Records' Fiddler on the Roof (2016 Broadway Cast Recording) is a lovely capture of the revival cast and the work they are putting into this beloved classic. For me, it won't take the spot of the film's soundtrack in my heart or on my iPod. Yet, I feel that it'll be a great addition to the collection of FIDDLER fans the world over. After all, isn't refreshing to experience new takes on cherished works from time to time?
Broadway Records released Fiddler on the Roof (2016 Broadway Cast Recording) on March 18, 2016. It can be purchased from Broadway Records' online store, iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold. Fiddler on the Roof is currently running at the Broadway Theatre (1681 Broadway, New York, NY 10019). For tickets and more information, please visit http://fiddlermusical.com.