BWW Review: Bartlett Sher's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Is Transcendent ~ A Shining Event At ASU Gammage

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BWW Review: Bartlett Sher's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Is Transcendent ~ A Shining Event At ASU Gammage

In all the times that I have seen FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (and they have been many ~ whether on stage or film), I have never seen a production as inspired, imaginative, and moving in its staging as Bartlett Sher's. The vision of this Tony Award-winning director imbues this musical classic with a singular vitality and soulfulness that distinguishes it from its antecedents. Now appearing at ASU Gammage through February 2nd, the show is a stunning and magical mix of superb performances, Christopher Evans's dazzling and muscular choreography, and Michael Yeargan's vivid and ethereal set designs.

Sher's Tevye the milkman (portrayed with charm and exuberance by the Israeli actor Yehezkel Lazarov) is the everyman ~ a humble but testy servant of his God and a man of fidelity to his faith, his family, his community ~ and to tradition.

The times, however, are not kind to such commitments. Change is in the Russian air. The seeds of Communist revolution are budding. Pogroms are on the rise, soon to be followed by the expulsion of Jews from their villages. In this context, change becomes very personal and traumatic to Tevye when, one by one, three of his five daughters break from tradition.

The secret commitment of Tzeitel (Kelly Gabrielle Murphy), Tevye's eldest, to Motel (Nick Siccone), the timorous tailor, creates havoc when the arrangement by Yente (Carol Beaugard), the local matchmaker, to wed Tzeitel with Lazar Wolf (Jonathan Von Mering) the butcher unravels. Just as Job faced trials of the soul, Tevye must choose between tradition and his love of his daughter.

Next comes the engagement of Hodel (Ruthy Froch) to the Marxist radical, Perchik (Nic Casaula). Again, Tevye must choose between denial or blessing.

The final blow is the desire of Chava (Noa Luz Barenblat) to wed Fyedka (Jack O'Brien), one of the village's gentile youths. This, marriage outside the faith, is a bridge that Tevye cannot cross.

Throughout Tevye's confrontations with God, his daughters, and the menacing Constable (Andrew Hendrick), there stands one stabilizing and stern force, the keeper of the family ~ Golde (Maite Uzal), his wife of twenty-five years. The affirmation of their mutual devotion ~ Do You Love Me? ~ is one of the solid gold tender moments in the musical.

Throughout all the scenes of celebration and conflict, the full cast perform their roles with artfulness and vigor. So it is with Tzeitl's touching wedding scene and the vibrant celebration featuring the amazing bottle dance; the hilarious nightmare sequence, fabricated by Tevye to dissuade his Golde from accepting the match with Lazar; and the final gut wrenching exodus from Anatevka.

In this iteration of the musical, Sher's interpretation brings the iconic fiddler (Ali Arian (Molaei) off the roof to play a soulful complement to Tevye's musings and to mingle invisibly among the villagers of Anatevka, the shtetl which stands as the temporary haven of a community historically on the move.

Here then is a FIDDLER not to be missed.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF runs through February 2nd at ASU Gammage in Tempe, AZ.

Photo credit to Joan Marcus

ASU Gammage ~ ~ Box Office: 480-965-3434 ~ 1200 South Forest Avenue ~ On the Tempe Campus of ASU at Mill Avenue & Apache Boulevard, Tempe, AZ

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From This Author Herbert Paine