Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Fiddler on the Roof
For almost 50 years, Fiddler on the Roof> has been a favorite with American audiences. The show always makes those lists of the most popular American musicals. Now, the show has arrived at the Palace Theatre, Playhouse Square, Cleveland for a two-week run. This is the end of the tour, which stars Harvey Fierstein as Tevye.
At the American Theatre Critic Association's conference in New York City, Fierstein told a humorous story about his accepting this role. When he and his agent talked about the offer to play Tevye, the agent said, "You have no choice but to take the role. If you don't, in six months you'll brag you were offered the role and no one will believe you."
"So," Fierstein said, "I took the role."
And we're glad he did.
Fierstein has four Tony Awards. He received two in 1982, for Torch Song Trilogy (actor and playwright) and one for La Cage aux Folles (book for a musical) in 1983. In 2003, he received the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for Hairspray.
Fiddler on the Roof is based on "Tevye's Daughters," a collection of stories by the Yiddish author Sholom Aleichem. Using Aleichem's stories, three writersJoseph Stein (book), Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics)created Fiddler on the Roof.
The musical, concerning Jews living in Czarist Russia, is set in an impoverished Russian village of Anatevka just before the Communist Revolution. The plot confronts the evils of prejudice and the importance of maintaining a connected family life. Yet the story is so universal in its appeal that it has been performed in more than 15 languages, in over 30 countries.
The story involves Tevye and his familya wife, five daughters, some cows and one lame horse. The first song in the show underscores what the plot will be. Tevye and the people of Anatevka, sing "Tradition." In this song, Tevye and the villagers praise the status quo, the joy of tradition.
But the year is 1905 and revolution is brewing in Russia. In Europe, the seeds of what will be World War have begun to germinate. In the United States, Russian Jews are finding freedom, safety and opportunity. Tevye stands at the point where tradition and revolution will collide.
Tevye is a dairyman who milks his cows and sells milk and cheese to support his family. He lives his life as a man of faith. He speaks to God in a strong, loud voice, asking for blessings, complaining and, at times, teasing God. For example, as he talks to God, he says, "Now, as the good book says ... but wait, I don't have to tell you."
Traditions collapse as his older three daughters fall in love and leave the home. They break with tradition when they don't wait for the matchmaker to arrange the marriage. One daughter leaves the home her parents provide to meet her love in a city in Siberia, where he is in prison. One marries outside the faith.
Finally, the Russian political powers demand the Jews to leave Anatevka. This, of course, disperses Tevye's family across the globe. As one daughter says, "God knows when we'll see each other again."
As the curtain went down and the applause filled the theater, I thought of the line: "God knows when we'll see each other again."
This production of Fiddler on the Roof was directed by Sammy Dallas Bayes, who also reproduced Jerome Robbins' choreography.
This is a stunning show, emotionally and visually. This cast made the farewells, which come near the end of the play, heart wrenchingly emotional.
The next major event in the theaters of PlayhouseSquare will be Phantom of the Opera, which opens July 21, for an extended run.
For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000.
Fiddler on the Roof
- David Ritchey