Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway (Broadway Theatre)

The sorry state of the world gives us new reason to appreciate the depth of feeling so powerfully, so ingeniously embedded in “Fiddler on the Roof,” the much-loved and much-revived 1964 musical comedy that has returned to Broadway.

The superb new production, currently playing at the Broadway Theater, certainly honors the show’s ebullience of spirit, as embodied in the central character of the Jewish milkman Tevye, living in a Russian shtetl in the early 20th century, eternally wagging his tongue, shaking his fist and cracking wise at an indifferent God.

The score, by Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), enters your bloodstream, indelibly, upon a single hearing, so rousing are its songs of celebration, so beautiful the melodies of its songs of love and loss — two sides, for Tevye, of the same coin.

The role of Tevye, is here undertaken by Danny Burstein, a Broadway veteran and five-time Tony nominee. Mr. Burstein unleashes his rich baritone with roof-raising force when Tevye’s emotion is at its height, bringing home the character’s indomitable will, often hidden beneath his self-deprecating humor and sorely tried by his rebellious daughters. Mr. Burstein’s way with a classic Jewish joke is assured but unforced, his performance affecting but not overscaled, in keeping with the production’s emphasis on the musical’s emotional underpinnings, rather than the frosting of shticky comedy. 

A framing device finds Mr. Burstein first standing on a bare stage, a contemporary figure in a red parka facing a monumental gray brick wall. A sign bearing the name Anatevka hangs forlornly over a bare expanse. He is, we assume, a descendant of one of the townspeople, coming to see what is left of the shtetl. The answer: Nothing.

Mr. Burstein quickly unzips the parka to become Tevye, dressed traditionally, a prayer shawl hanging from underneath his vest. The famous violin solo is heard, and soon the stage has filled with the people of Anatevka singing the electrifying opening number, “Tradition,” which defines the central theme, the tension between honoring the past and accepting progress.

For Tevye, the conflict is a matter of daily headaches, given that three of his five daughters are approaching marrying age, and each proves unwilling to obey the longstanding tradition of arranged weddings. Tevye’s wife, Golde, brings a moving, careworn quality to her performance. Golde seems forever to be slightly stooped with work or worry, and is plaintively dismayed at Tevye’s ability to see both sides — or rather several sides — of any issue. (His constant invoking of the phrases “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” is a lovable running gag.)

  • Tevye (a dairyman) - Danny Burstein
  • Golde (his wife) - Judy Kuhn
  • Tzeitel (eldest daughter) - Alexandra Silber
  • Hodel (2nd oldest daughter) - Samantha Massell
  • Chava - Melanie Moore
  • Shprintze - Jenny Rose Baker
  • Bielke - Nerghiz Sarki
  • Yente (a matchmaker) - Alix Korey
  • Motel (a tailor) - Adam Kantor
  • Perchik (a student) - Ben Rappaport
  • Lazar Wolf (a butcher) - Adam Dannheisser
  • Mordcha - Michael C. Bernardi
  • Rabbi - Adam Grupper
Musical Numbers

Act One
  • "Prologue: Tradition"
  • "Matchmaker"
  • "If I Were a Rich Man"
  • "Sabbath Prayer"
  • "To Life"
  • "Tevye's Monologue"
  • "There's a Dream"
  • "Sunrise, Sunset" (The BEST song of the whole show)
  • The Wedding
Act Two
  • Entr'acte
  • "Now I Have Everything"
  • Tevye's Monologue (reprise)
  • "Do You Love Me?"
  • "The Rumor"
  • "Far From the Home I Love"
  • "Chavaleh"
  • "Anatevka"

Fiddler on The Roof Report Card

  • Danny Burnstein steals the show as the best Tevye yet
  • Excellent singing by Danny Burnstein (Tevye) and Judy Kuhn (Golde)
  • Excellent fiddle playing
  • Excellent stage decorations
  • One of the BEST Musicals of all time!
  • Adam Kantor's singing as Motel was a bit weak