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Interview: Jack O'Brien Reflects on 'Always Poignant' FIDDLER ON THE ROOF National Tour

The classic musical is now playing at The Fox Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof (Non-Equity)

Everyone has a story about their relationship to FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

Whether it's a memory of seeing a middle school performance in an orchestra classroom like yours truly, watching the movie for a class, or starring as Tevye in your high school's production, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has no connection to the musical. And for cast members in the current National Tour like Jack O'Brien, that means being received by audiences like an old friend.

"What I love about the show, really is that everywhere you go, so many audience members are like, 'I saw it on Broadway in the sixties, and I'm seeing it now!'" shares O'Brien. "[Or they might say,] 'I was Tevye in high school,' or with the movie especially, a lot of people are like, 'I wore that VHS out when I was a kid!' But for me personally, it's my first experience [being in FIDDLER]. And I'm really grateful to be a part of it because it is really one of those that's just been around for so long. It's such a classic show!"

Now playing right here in Atlanta's Fox Theatre through Sunday November 14, this beloved show about family, tradition, and home is based on director Bartlett Sher's 2015 revival staging.

"Tevye is very much a traditional Jewish father at that time, in 1905 Russia, and he's trying to set up his daughters through the matchmaker," O'Brien explains. "But the daughters are more modern, and they want to make their own choices and marry for love and all those other reasons that seem very common to us today."

As Fyedka, one of the daughters' suitors, O'Brien gets to take a huge part in the most tradition-shattering aspect of the show. The actor admits with a laugh that though much of the first act is fun and light-hearted, his character is part of the reason the second act is much heavier.

"So the third daughter Chava falls in love with Fyedka, who is not Jewish," says O'Brien. "So that's probably the biggest break from tradition. It does create some strife in the family. And that's where I come into play. So, you know, I'm the 'good guy' to Chava, but not a great guy to Tevye."

Though this tour just kicked off two weeks ago for the first time since theatres shut down last spring, O'Brien had been with the production since 2018.

"To get the call to come back was really, really exciting because it really does become like a family out on the road," he says. "So, it's been a mixture of reunions with all of the returning cast - because our Tevye, Golde, and a lot of our principal actors are the same - and then also we have some newcomers. So it was also a cool rehearsal experience because we were able to help show those people the ropes."

He may have been in the show for quite some time now, but O'Brien says the ensemble's dancing still blows him away every night.

"There's something about this updated choreography," O'Brien explains. For this production, Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter has re-adapted the work of FIDDLER's original Broadway choreographer/director Jerome Robbins to combine both iconic dance elements and new, more authentic choreography. "I can talk about it forever, but it is classic FIDDLER. Even if you've seen the show a million times, come see it for the new choreography. It's just so, so wonderful. And they're so talented!"

During most performances, O'Brien makes a point to watch one sequence which he says is worth the price of admission in and of itself.

"My favorite part of the show is the wedding sequence," he says. "It starts with 'Sunrise, Sunset,' which of course is probably the most popular song from the show. And then it moves into all the dancing. You see the Jerome Robbins bottle dance, but it's also nice that you have [Shechter's] more Israeli, more modern movement happening in there. I watch it almost every night, and I'm not even in the scene, I'm just chilling off stage!"

As they continue touring through at least next summer, O'Brien is looking forward to sharing this story throughout the country because of its timeless relatability.

"Our director likes to say that it's timeless because it's a classic, but it's also timeless because the things that are being said are still happening," he points out. "It's things that people can really relate to both in kind of a sad way, but also in a good way, like all of the relationships, the marriages and things like that. But it's poignant always, it seems like. And maybe that's why it gets revived every few years!"


Fiddler on the Roof (Non-Equity)

JACK O'BRIEN (Fyedka) is thrilled to return to the stage with this amazing company and beautiful production. International Tour: Shrek the Musical (Shrek Alternate). National Tour: Ghost the Musical (u/s Sam/Carl). Select regional: South Pacific (Lt. Cable), Damn Yankees (Joe Hardy), Avenue Q (Princeton/ Rod). Millikin University graduate. Many thanks to the Fiddler team, family, and friends! Much love to husband Tony and fur-baby Judas.


Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta presents the tour of the Tony Award®-nominated Broadway revival of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF to the Fox Theatre through Nov. 14. To celebrate Broadway in Atlanta's 40-year anniversary season, a select number of $40 tickets will be sold for each performance. Tickets are available at foxtheatre.org.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is the heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and life, love and laughter. This classic musical is rich with Broadway hits, including "To Life (L'Chaim!)," "If I Were A Rich Man," "Sunrise, Sunset," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," and "Tradition."

A beloved theatrical classic from Tony-winner Joseph Stein and Pulitzer Prize-winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, this critically acclaimed production is directed by Tony Award ®-winner Bartlett Sher (To Kill a Mockingbird, South Pacific, The King and I) and choreographed by the acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter.


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From This Author - Sally Henry Fuller

BroadwayWorld Atlanta's Senior Editor. Freelance theatre journalist and incorrigible Broadway fangirl calling coffee shops home.

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