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“Fiddler on the Roof” at the Goodspeed Opera House

by Zander Opper

            One of the many accomplishments of Goodspeed Opera House’s moving and magnificent new production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is the performance of Adam Heller as Tevye. Many actors have taken on this iconic role since “Fiddler” premiered on Broadway forty years ago. I was lucky enough to have caught both Alfred Molina and Harvey Fierstein as Tevye in the 2004 Broadway revival and I have also seen treasured press footage of Hershel Bernardi from a 1981 New York State Theatre production. And that’s not to mention Topol in the film version and, of course, Zero Mostel on the original cast recording.

            Taking all of this into account, what is so remarkable about Adam Heller’s performance is that he manages to erase (at least, for me) the memory of any of his predecessors in this role. His portrayal starts out slowly in the opening number, “Tradition,” and he, admittedly, brings to mind Zero Mostel in the immortal “If I Were a Rich Man,” but, somewhere along the way he embodies the character completely. He simply is Tevye. Adam Heller’s stirring performance alone would be recommendation enough to warrant a trip to the Goodspeed Opera House, but I am happy to report that just about every aspect of this production is golden, making a visit to see this wonderful “Fiddler on the Roof” an absolute necessity.

            “Fiddler on the Roof,” with book by Joseph Stein and music and lyrics by the team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, is one of the strongest musicals of Broadway’s Golden Age. It is so well structured that some critics have maintained that the book is actually almost stronger than the score. Whether this is true or not is something to be debated by musical theatre scholars and enthusiasts. What is unquestionable about this musical is how irresistibly one gets caught up in the lives of Tevye and his family, especially the marrying off of his daughters. I have a feeling that “Fiddler” is almost sure-fire enough to work in just about any production; when it is presented as splendidly as Goodspeed Opera House’s current revival, one’s cup runneth over.

            As directed by Rob Ruggiero (who did such marvelous work on last season’s “The Most Happy Fella”) on a gorgeous looking set by Michael Schweikardt, the small village of Anatevka comes to glorious life from the moment the show begins. In addition to Adam Heller, there are sterling performances by Lori Wilner (as Tevye’s wife, Golde) and all five of his daughters have been well cast, with especially strong work by Barrie Kreinik, Elizabeth DeRosa, and Jen Brissman. Cheryl Stern is all you could ask for as the matchmaker Yente and David Perlman and Abdiel Vivancos are grand as two of the suitors for Tevye’s daughters. It should also be mentioned that music director Michael O’Flaherty leads a fine orchestra and that Parker Esse has done a terrific job of reproducing Jerome Robbins’ legendary choreography.

            In this current production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” all of the musical numbers are as exceptional or better than I have seen in any other revival of this show and there were more than a few moments when my eyes welled up with tears. This is how it should be when “Fiddler on the Roof” is presented as gloriously as it is here and I almost guarantee that this show will stay with you long after the final curtain call. So, come spend a few hours in Anatevka to experience Goodspeed Opera House’s stunning revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” I, for one, couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather be.

            “Fiddler on the Roof” continues performances at the Goodspeed Opera House through September 12th. For tickets, please visit www.goodspeed.org or call (860) 873-8668.

Posted August 16, 2014

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