Mom Theatre Blogger: Fiddler on the Roof: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

fiddlerI grew up listening to the cast album of Fiddler on the Roof, and it conjured up childhood memories when I had the opportunity to see the new production, particularly given that it was Kids Night on Broadway. After the performance there was a talkback, and a good number of families attended, despite it being a school night.  It was interesting to hear the questions posed by eager and curious children and to hear participating cast members respond with such thought and generosity of spirit, endeavoring to support and inspire those students with a penchant for performing.

When asked, by an adolescent girl, how they maintain their enthusiasm when doing so many shows, Alix Korey (who plays Yente) tenderly shared how she remembered being a child of 12 at a Broadway show with her parents and how delighted she was to be there.  So, each time she performs, she thinks of herself at that age and other young people coming to the show today, and it helps to keep her performance lively and fresh because she wants the audience to feel the delight that she did.  Samantha Massell (who plays Hodel) impressed upon the young people the importance of pursuing your passion and not giving up, and you could almost feel the delight of the kids as they hung on every word from the cast.

Not only was it an unexpected treat to attend the talkback, but the new Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof  at The Broadway Theatre is a treat unto itself.  It is a beautiful must-see production, even if you’ve seen Fiddler a bunch of times before.

Fiddler on the Roof  has a book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, was the first musical in history to surpass 3,000 performances. The show won the 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical in addition to eight other Tony Awards that year.

The current production is directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, choreographed by Hofesh Shechter, inspired by the original choreography of Jerome Robbins, and the music director is Ted Sperling.  Featured are such rousing and heartfelt Broadway classics “To Life (L’Chaim!),” “If I Were A Rich Man,” “Sunrise Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and “Tradition”. The show tells the timeless tale of Tevye, a poor, humble, Jewish dairyman, and his family, including his steadfast wife Golde, and five daughters, as they each endeavor to follow their hearts and carve paths for themselves in pre-war Russia and beyond, even if it means balking tradition.

The cast features five-time Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk & Outer Critics Circle Award winner Danny Burstein (Cabaret, Golden Boy, Follies, South Pacific) as Tevye, Tony nominee Jessica Hecht (A View From the Bridge, “Breaking Bad,” The Last Night of Ballyhoo) as Golde, Jenny Rose Baker (Annie Get Your Gun) as Shprintze, Michael C.   Bernardi as Mordcha, Adam Dannheisser (Rock of Ages, The Coast of Utopia) as Lazar Wolf, Hayley Feinstein (Shrek The Musical, National Tour) as Bielke, Mitch Greenberg (It Shoulda Been You) as Yussel and the Beggar, Adam Grupper (The Addams Family) as the Rabbi, Adam Kantor (The Last Five Years, Next to Normal, Rent) as Motel, Karl Kenzler (You Can’t Take It With You, Mary Poppins) as the Constable, Alix Korey (All Shook Up, Chicago) as Yente, Jesse Kovarsky as The Fiddler, Samantha Massell (La Boheme) as Hodel, Melanie Moore (Finding Neverland, “So You Think You Can Dance”) as Chava, George Psomas (South Pacific) as Avram, Ben Rappaport (“Mr. Robot,” Picnic) as Perchik, Nick Rehberger (The Glass Menagerie) as Fyedka, Jeffrey Schecter (A Chorus Line, Nice Work if You Can Get It) as Mendel, Alexandra Silber (Master Class) as Tzeitel, Jessica Vosk (The Bridges of Madison County) as Fruma-Sarah, Lori Wilner (The Assembled Parties) as Grandma Tzeitel, Aaron Young as Sasha, and Jennifer Zetlan (Metropolitan Opera) as Shaindel. The ensemble features Julie Benko, Eric Bourne, Stephen Carrasco (Kinky Boots), Eric Chambliss, Austin Goodwin, Jacob Guzman (Newsies), Reed Luplau, Brandt Martinez (Aladdin), Matt Moisey, Sarah Parker, Marla Phelan (Sleep No More), Tess Primack, Silvia Vrskova, and Jonathan Royse Windham.

Thanks in large part to Burstein, this Fiddler is full of humor and heart.  The comedic moments, even in the depth of inquisition and pain, shine through, thanks to his delivery, particularly when speaking to God and the audience.  He makes for a warm and wonderful Tevye, and Hecht, too, while not the strongest songstress, captures the emotion and connects well with Burstein,  She gets some laughs thanks to her deadpan delivery.

The large cast is uniformly solid and appealing, and the choreography, including sweeping hand gestures, soars with both elegance and athleticism.

The design team includes scenic design by Michael Yeargan, costume design by Catherine Zuber, and lighting design by Donald Holder. Sound design is by Scott Lehrer (A Delicate Balance, South Pacific).

Fiddler on the Roof has endured for good reason. It’s a show that every musical theatre lover should see at least once, and Burstein makes you want to experience it again and again.


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