by Mark G. Auerbach
The new national tour of the well-received 2015 Broadway revival of Fiddler on The Roof is at The Bushnell this week, and the classic’s looking quite fine. Hartford is the third city to see this touring production recreated by Bartlett Sher which features Jerome Robbins’ choreography as interpreted by choreographer Hofesh Shechter, who got a Tony nomination for his efforts. The staging, which adds some nuances to Jerome Robbins’ vision, and the choreography, with roots in the Robbins tradition, is stunning. “The “Wedding” with its bottle dance and”Tevye’s Dream” are still showstoppers. .Michael Yeargan’s set, Catherine Zuber’s costumes, and Donald Holder’ lighting combine to make this production a feast for the eyes.
With its universal themes of family and tradition, Fiddler on The Roof has been a hit since its Broadway premiere in 1964. Fiddler became legend as the longest-running musical in Broadway history, until Grease broke that record. It won nine Tony Awards, toured internationally, was made into a successful 1971 movie, and has been revived on Broadway five times. In fact, a Yiddish language production is currently playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City through December 30. And it’s estimated that there are over 500 amateur productions around each year.
Fiddler on The Roof is set in Imperial Russia in 1905, where a poor Jewish family, is trying to make ends meet, and forge successful futures for their five daughters. They, and the villagers pf Anatevka, after suffering acts of anti-semitism at the hands of the Russins, have no choice but to join the parade of migrants making their way across Europe for a new life in America. Seeing this show on Election Night, as migrants wend their way towards the southern border, and Jews are still stinging from the Pittsburgh shootings, gave Fiddler on The Roof an added urgency.
Yehezkel Lazarov, the talented Israeli stage and screen actor, plays Tevye, a part I always imagined to be performed by an older actor. In doing the math, Tevye could have been in his early 40s, and Lazarov was agile, youthful, and captivating. His performance had nuance, balance, and texture. The remainder of the company, many making their national tour debuts in this production, have the blocking, dance moves, and harmonies on the mark. However, they’re still fine-tuning the heart and soul of this masterpiece, which really sets high standards for its wonderful script and score.
If you’ve never seen a professional production of Fiddler on The Roof, or you have kids who haven’t seen it, this production will satisfy. I never like to compare one production from another. Having been in two productions of Fiddler on The Roof during my onstage days, and having covered at least a dozen productions as a reporter, not to mention having seen Zero Mostel in a tour, I thought this production hit the right marks. But the 50th anniversary production at Goodspeed in 2014 captured my heart when the fiddler’s first notes hovered over Anatevka.
The Bushnell presents Fiddler on The Roof. Book by Joseph Stein. Music by Jerry Bock. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Original direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins. Directed by Bartlett Sher. Choregraphy by Hofesh Shechter. Music direction and orchestrations by Ted Sperling. Scenic design by Michael Yeargan. Costume design by Catherine Zuber. Lighting design by Donald Holder. Sound design by Scott Lehrer. Cast: . Yehezkel Lazarov as Tevye. Maite Uzal as Golde. Through November 11 at The Bushnell, Hartford, CT. 860-987-5900 or www.bushnell.org.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB Radio.