You might scratch your head and wonder what inspired someone to wake one morning and think, “I’m going to write a show about Jewish life in 1905 Tsarist Russia . . . and make it a musical!” But after seeing The National Theatre’s boisterous, heartwarming revival of Fiddler on the Roof, you’ll be glad someone did.
Tony-winning director Bartlett Sher and the team behind South Pacific, The King and I, and 2017 Tony-winning Best Play Oslo, bring a fresh and authentic vision to this beloved theatrical masterpiece from Tony winner Joseph Stein and Pulitzer winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. The original production won ten Tony Awards, including a special Tony for becoming the longest-running Broadway musical of all time. You may not think you know Fiddler on the Roof, but memory strings will pluck to Broadway classics such as “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”
A strong ensemble cast tells what, at its core, is a heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and the timeless traditions that define faith and family as a Jewish community tries to live a simple orthodox life in a country rife with anti-Semitism. Their precarious position is symbolized by the fiddler, drawn from a painting by Marc Chagall, balancing on a pitched roof as he diligently plays on. Yehezkel Lazarov is outstanding as Tevye, the beleaguered, philosophical milkman, sparring with his stalwart wife Golde (Maite Uzal), arguing with God, wrestling with the challenges life – and his daughters Tzeitel (Kelly Gabrielle Murphy), Hodel (Ruthy Froch), and Chava (Noa Luz Barenblat) – continually throw his way. Lazarov is deft with timing, sly humor and poignant heart.
The real star of the show is the magnificently arranged movement and dance from acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, based on the original staging by Jerome Robbins. Supported by a Ted Sperling’s swelling eleven-piece orchestra and bouncing Klezmer beats, the performers twirl and stomp and astonish with feats of balance and strength in Russian dance. Power, longing, emotion and endurance are conveyed through dance. It’s impossible not to tap your toe to the rousing opening number, “Tradition.” Your journey to Russian shtetl of Anatevka is completed by Michael Yeargan’s scenic design and Catherin Zuber’s costuming.
The beloved classic has received a fresh, contemporary update, while retaining the pathos and passion of Broadway’s favorite musical. Stomp on over to see Fiddler on the Roof before the sun sets on this production.
Fiddler on the Roof is playing at The National Theatre (1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20004) December 11-14, 2019. Running time: two hours and fifty-five minutes with one intermission.
Photos credit Joan Marcus