There are some things that are constants no matter the time or place: community, culture, and, yes, tradition. But change is also an inevitable constant, and how we choose to react to that change is what makes or breaks us.
Fiddler on the Roof , now on at Arena Stage, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and has endured as a classic not just because of its historical value in Jewish culture, but because it is a reminder of the endless march of progress and change, and the way in which they impact our lives is a universal theme especially relevant in this day and age.
DC’s Arena Stage is celebrating those messages — as well as pure entertainment — with ongoing performances of the timeless musical from now through January, and their November 12 opening night was packed full of surprises as Fiddler’s lyricist Sheldon Harnick and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined the audience and were honored with awards for their work supporting arts and cultural legacy. The audience, cast, and crew were also treated to a decadent dessert and wine reception following the play.
The opening night performance was nothing short of spectacular, with Tony nominee Jonathan Hadary delighting the audience in his Arena Stage debut as the poor milkman and Jewish father Tevye, whose devotion to his culture and faith are tested as his daughters rebel against societal norms and the government forces him out of his land. The Fichandler theater served as an intimate setting, and its round arena style loaned itself well to the play’s dynamism. Candles lit throughout the theater during the Sabbath dinner enveloped the audience in the warmth of community, while the hilarious nightmare sequence in which the dead come back to life was the perfectly bizarre, fantastic moment to keep audiences giggling even as the story entered its more serious second half.
The standing ovation and cheers given to the cast at the end of their bold, memorable performance are proof that, though the story was first written in 1905, its messages stand the test of time. Arena Stage may have put their own personal touches on the classic, but the tradition of Fiddler lives on through them.
Fiddler on the Roof plays at Arena Stage now through January 4, 2015.
*Images credit Margot Schulman for Arena Stage