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Review: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at Des Moines Performing Arts

Review: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at Des Moines Performing Arts

A classic story told through a modern lens plays through October 30.

One of the things I've grown to appreciate about Des Moines Performing Arts is their willingness to bring revivals as part of the Willis Broadway Series. Their commitment to revivals has brought some of my favorite productions over the last few seasons. What is so great about revivals is many times, they take a new look at classic material. It could be focusing on an element of the show that wasn't focused on before. At other times it could be looking at the show through an understanding of current events. Tuesday night, Des Moines Performing Arts brought the national tour of "Fiddler on the Roof," the 2016 Tony-nominated revival to the stage, and it couldn't have arrived at a better time.
"Fiddler on the Roof" starts with a relatively bare stage, with a man in a jacket and a sign saying Anatevka. As the lights come up, we hear a train whistle. It struck me in the current political climate that this could represent an immigrant. He slowly pulls out a book or journal, and as he opens it, the story starts. This everyman immigrant becomes Tevye, the lead of the show. He starts sharing his story about how much his traditions have meant to him. As the show begins, we start to see what happens with him, his wife, and his three daughters as they start changing their traditions. We see how the Jewish community around them views these changes. While this is going on, we hear about Russia taking over closer territories and make themselves seen in the community when they disrupt Tevye's oldest daughter's wedding at the end of act 1. Can things get worse? To find out, you will have to see the show.
While watching this show, I appreciated the approach director Bartlett Sher and the design team took to this show. Usually, when this team comes together, we get a lavish retelling of a classic story. With this retelling, they held back on the gorgeous sets and stunning costumes we are used to seeing and still delivered a beautiful, not to be missed production. There are moments in the show where the opulence of the set and costumes are used, but they are at key moments where it advances the story. One example is Catherine Zuber's costuming of Tevye's Dream. The costumes of all the dead ancestors coming to the wedding we able to bring in the more fantastic designs you are used to her creating for her shows.
Like any production, while the creative team tells a visual story, we would only get the whole story with the show's cast. Jonathan Hashmonay, as Tevye, brings this everyman character to the role. As he goes through the show, he becomes a character we can all relate to, laugh with, and hurt with. He has a great match with Maite Uzal as Golde. She brings a strength to Golde I've not seen before. She becomes a great foil to Hashmonay's Tevye. The moment she allows Golde to become emotional and break down significantly impacts the show.
So many of the cast other cast members have found ways to take what we know about these characters and find a way to bring their character into a 20th-century lens. Yardén Barr's Chava, is no longer just a reader of books but is a woman going against society and wanting a better education for herself. Carson Robinette's Fyedka, is an outsider to the community but doesn't stand for the mistreatment of the Jews like the others do. Its little details, like both of these actors, and many others, bring to their roles, makes this a production for today and one you could see again and again.
Whether it's your first time visiting Anatevka or if you are returning to see this story on stage again, the national tour of "Fiddler on the Roof" is a show you won't want to miss. It keeps with Des Moines Performing Arts tradition of bringing familiar stories to the stage in ways that make us reflect on current times as an audience. This production continues performances through October 30.

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