BWW Review: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is Tradition at It's Best at Murat Theatre
Refreshing a cherished, old-time musical can be a daunting process and undertaking. You have to choose what directions you'd like to go... Should you keep the faith with longstanding traditions, or should you try something new and risky? If you want to go for some of both, how much of each should you incorporate? It's difficult to strike that perfect balance - it's almost like you're a Fiddler on the Roof.
"You might say that every one of us is a Fiddler on the Roof. Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck." This line opens every show of Fiddler on the Roof the Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and the Sheldon Harnick musical adaptation of Sholem Aleichem's short stories set in the Russian village of Anatevka in 1905. The original 1964 Broadway production attained nine Tony Awards, and most of those shows have kept the original Jerome Robbins' choreography.
To start any show of Fiddler on the Roof, you need the cast to be led by a great Tevye (Yehezkel Lazarov), a milkman struggling with lifelong poverty to keep his wife, Golde (Maite Uzal) and daughters fed, all during a constant, and often testy, inner monologue with either himself or God discussing the trials of reality. "I know that we are the Chosen People, but once in a while, can't you choose someone else?" he asks during a moment with God. Tackling that mighty of a role with all the combative inner struggles and heroic delight it requires, Yehezkel Lazarov brought an enthusiastic charm, fatherly warmth, whitty intelligence, and sometimes even a bearish nature.
During the show, Tevye must also face his own fits with the 20th century as three of his grown daughters decide not to wait for the village matchmaker to choose their husbands and Golde speaks her thoughts with him. In "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," the talented trio of Kelly Gabrielle Murphy (Tzeitel), Ruthy Froch (Hodel), and Noa Luz Barenblat (Chava) were always right on key as the feisty, non-compliant daughters. Of course, Maite Uzal as Golde was a standout, bringing the roll warmth and familiarity.
In almost every show of "Fiddler...", you see the same choreography. This was a very welcome surprise. Hofesh Shechter chose to shift the choreography in most of the dances from well-behaved, almost boring, and quaint to incredibly passionate and fervent. However, Shechter never got rid of all of Jerome Robbins' original numbers. The bottle dance at Tzeitel's wedding is still here, where dancers balance wine bottles on their heads. This time, it has been upgraded with more gravity-defying moves and a certain grace not seen in the original. On the more technical side, quaint backdrops and the set was designed by Michael Yeargan. For us, it was able to easily show off the rough-hewn presence of a rural village while still leaving room for the actors.
Since coming out in the 1960's, Fiddler on the Roof has entrenched itself as an essential show to see and this cast is no different... maybe even more so with the current political climate around the world. Fiddler is much more than a show. It can remind us that it is a unifying symbol and constant reminder of heritage for the American Jewish community at a moment when assimilation and cultural diversification had reached a tipping point.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF runs at the Murat Theatre from now until October 6th.