Fiddler on the Roof has been produced by countless schools and community theatres since it premiered in 1964, and it’s currently appearing in its fifth revival on Broadway – so you might think that there’s no new ground to be uncovered by director Bartlett Sher’s version of the show. Indeed, if there is something new to be found in Fiddler, Sher’s revival doesn’t find it, but it is a solid production of the show.
The Harnick and Bock musical follows Tevye (Danny Burstein), a poor man with five daughters who lives in Anatevka, Russia in 1905, just before the Russian Revolution. His three eldest daughters, Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber), Hodel (Samantha Massell), and Chava (Melanie Moore) are of marrying age, so—much to his wife, Golde (Jessica Hecht)’s delight—Tevye makes an agreement for Lazar Wolf (Adam Danheisser), who is old and rich, to marry Tzeitel. But Tzeitel wants to marry her childhood sweetheart, Motel (Adam Kantor), who is poor, but loves her very much. Tevye, who’s accustomed to traditions and sticking to the status quo, starts to realize that the world is rapidly changing around him.
Burstein is wonderful as Tevye, hitting all the right notes both vocally and dramatically. He’s a very capable character actor, and it’s a treat to see him command the stage as a leading man. His Tevye is charming, winning the audience over with his humour. Kantor is earnestly loveable as Motel the Tailor, but the role seems to lack the dimension Kantor has brought to other roles he’s played. That’s a common problem in the cast; unfortunately, everyone falls flat in comparison to Burstein, delivering lines in a manner that lacks any nuance or real emotion.
However, the ensemble makes up for the principals’ lack of enthusiasm with their vivacious dancing to Jerome Robbins’ and Hofesh Schechter’s choreography. The dancers hit every beat with gusto, and it’s easy to get swept away into their shimmying, twirling world. The dance numbers are truly a highlight of the show.
Generally speaking, the production is well-done, and the opening and closing moments are a nice touch (Burstein appears in modern dress, seemingly as a descendent of Tevye who has come to Anatevka to learn about his heritage), but it’s hard not to hunger for more, for some sort of deeper insight into the text, when the production features an actor as wonderful as Mr. Burstein.
Fiddler on the Roof is playing the Broadway Theatre. For more information and tickets, see the Fiddler website. Photo by Joan Marcus.