“Fiddler on the Roof”
Director Bartlett Sher’s revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Broadway Theatre is a fine, almost poetically fashioned production. Starring a wonderful Danny Burstein as Tevye, this current revival manages to embrace both the traditional ways of staging “Fiddler,” as well as adding some new, mostly successful touches. This production is blessed with a large, extremely strong cast who truly are able to resurrect the town of Anatevka beautifully onstage.
Some may carp that this “Fiddler” doesn’t look like Jerome Robbins’ original production of this classic musical, but there is much majesty onstage and the show often feels entirely fresh. Director Bartlett Sher has brought gorgeous revivals of “South Pacific” and “The King and I” to Broadway in the past, and, if his “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Broadway Theatre isn’t quite on the level of those two productions, it is still sensitively and touchingly handled.
Fans of this musical will notice right from the start that this production has some new ideas up its sleeve. In the opening moments, Danny Burstein is seen entering in a bright red coat, reading from a book. However, this Prologue is quite brief, with Burstein shedding his coat and launching into “Tradition.” It’s not really giving away anything to say that the closing moments of the production act as a bookend of sorts: Danny Burstein is seen putting the red coat back on before the final curtain comes down. Reactions have been mixed to this new conceit, with some liking it as a comment to the show and some dismissing it. The best thing that I can say about this adding of the red coat is that it keeps from affecting or negating any of the overall power of the musical.
Where this new “Fiddler on the Roof” really shines is in the excellent performances by the entire cast. The near perfection of Joseph Stein’s book comes through terrifically and the Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick score is similarly well served. As mentioned, Danny Burstein is a terrific Tevye, almost making one forget the actors who have portrayed this role before. Burstein is both very funny in his frequent talks to God (and it must be said that his “If I Were a Rich Man” is a real gem), though he can be quite moving, as well, particularly his reactions to his daughters getting married. I’ve been a big fan of Danny Burstein for decades and his performance in “Fiddler” is one of his all-time best.
As Golde, Tevye’s wife, Jessica Hecht seems to have been chosen more for her acting than her singing: she manages to put over her songs well enough, but she really shines in the book scenes, and she makes a perfect companion to Danny Burstein’s Tevye. As Teyve’s three oldest daughters, Alexandra Silber, Samantha Massell, and Melanie Moore are all exceedingly well-cast, and each actress brings something special to each individual role.
Adam Kantor is a humorous and solid Motel, the tailor, singing “Miracle of Miracles” splendidly and Ben Rappaport is equally good as Perchik, with his second act duet opposite Samantha Massell, “Now I Have Everything,” being a highlight. Finally, Alix Korey is a funny, ideal Yente and, happily, her character’s number, “The Rumor,” has been restored to the show (in the 2004 revival, the song had been replaced by a new song, “Topsy-Turvy,” which somehow didn’t work quite as well).
The look of this new “Fiddler on the Roof” is a bit unorthodox, but it still proves to be pretty sterling, with excellent scenic design by Michael Yeargan and appropriate costumes by designer Catherine Zuber. Jerome Robbins’ original choreography has been almost completely replaced by new work by Hofesh Shechter. If the dancing in this production of “Fiddler” isn’t as indelible as Robbins’ original steps, it gets by okay, nonetheless. Also, music director Ted Sperling leads a grand orchestra and, though the original Don Walker orchestrations have been fiddled with a bit, the songs still sound like they should.
The fact that director Bartlett Sher has chosen to change some aspects of “Fiddler on the Roof” may turn off musical theatre purists, but the heart of this show is most evidently present, resulting in a production that truly works. Indeed, this new revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Broadway Theatre is really something of a wonder and should satisfy audience members who have seen this musical multiple times, as well as those new to this classic show.
“Fiddler on the Roof” continues performances at the Broadway Theatre in New York City through December 31, 2016. For tickets www.FiddlerMusical.com or call Telecharge at 212-239-6200.
Photo: Danny Burstein (center) and cast
Photo by Joan Marcus