BWW Review: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at Providence Performing Arts Center. Don't Miss It!
There are times when being a theater reviewer is a fabulous gig. Last night at the Providence Performing Arts Center was one of those times. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, running through Sunday at PPAC is not to be missed. It is warm, funny, sad, uplifting, and helps us see the world from the vantage point of the oppressed-it is gorgeous. First, let's give credit to FIDDLER'S creators: Jerry Bock wrote the music, Sheldon Harnick the lyrics, and Joseph Stein the book. Bock and Harnick had previously collaborated on the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner Fiorello; Stein had been part of the writing team along with Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Neil Simon on television's Your Show on Shows-these were some talented guys. The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. It held the record for the longest running Broadway musical for almost ten years. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It won nine Tony awards, including best musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful film adaptation and has enjoyed enduring international popularity.
OK, the plot: FIDDLER is set in the Pale of Settlement, an area where Jews were allowed to live, of Imperial Russia in or around 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family's lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love - each one's choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of their Jewish faith and heritage - and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village. On one level, the plight of the outcast and the refugee makes FIDDLER so powerful.
So what makes this production so good? From the very beginning the singing and dancing are off the charts. When the company opened with "Tradition," it seemed there were a thousand people on stage singing. My wife said it gave her the chills. "Sabbath Prayer" and "Sunrise, Sunset" were just as beautiful but in a quiet, reverential way. And then there were the individual performance. Yehezkel Lazarov, an Israeli actor, was an amazing Tevye. He is both a graceful dancer and a funny man. Like Tevye, when he spoke, people listened. Tevye is on stage a lot, so the actor playing him had better be good-Lazarov was very good. Michael Yeargan's set too, helped make the piece memorable: It was a huge empty space with plenty of room for the incredible dancing and backgrounds flying for the different scenes. It was simple and always enhanced the action. All of the singers were first rate, particularly Maite Uzalas as Golde, Tevye's wife. Their duets would charm even the most jaded heart. Finally, the costumes by Catherine Zuber and lighting by Donald Holder for the "Tevye's Dream" sequence were a hoot and a half.
The running time was about two hours and fifty-minutes with an intermission. It flew by. A word to the wise: this started right on time, and the intermission was brief.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF runs at the PPAC, 220 Weybosset St., Providence, until Sunday. Tickets start at $38.00. Check the box office for times and availability. The box office can be reached at (401) 421-2787 or online at www.ppacri.org. PPAC is a completely accessible venue. Go. Have fun. It will take a while to get the tunes out of your head-you won't be in any hurry.