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Fiddler on the Roof ~ National Theatre

Jordan Wright
December 11, 2019 

An exhilarating and fresh new production of Fiddler hit the National Theatre this week.  The Tony-nominated revival comes in at number eight in the venue’s 2019-2020 “Broadway at the National” series – a series that includes an unprecedented 17 productions.  As with many a national touring show, it is only here for a few performances before hitting the road and straight on to yet another U. S. city.  Catch it if you can.  The voices, as well as the production values, are sublime, and the energy and dance numbers are at full throttle.

The Cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Written at the turn of the 20th century, the story of the lone fiddler is inspired by the Yiddish stories of Sholem Aleichem.  In this funny and sweetly endearing folk tale set in the fictional Russian Jewish shetl called Anatevka, live Tevye, a milkman, his wife, Golde and their five eligible daughters.  In their small village the rabbi, or rebbe, is the ultimate authority on Jewish tradition and Yente the Matchmaker, who is the Dolly Levi of arranged marriages, has the final say in whom the young women will marry.

Yehezkel Lazarov, Jonathan Von Mering & the Cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Alas, poor Tevye.  He is eternally conflicted by the changing times as he wrestles with the frightening political climate, the ever-looming pogroms, and the strict religious precepts laid down by the rabbi.  Fiercely traditional in a paternalistic society, he tries to rationalize his daughters’ unorthodox marital choices.  “On the other hand, look at my daughter’s eyes,” he muses, trying to justify the adoration he sees in them for the men they love.   We see Tevye at odds between keeping tradition or accepting the decisions of his beloved daughters.  “Without tradition our lives would be as shaky as the fiddler on the roof,” he warns them.

Natalie Anne Powers, Mel Weyn & Ruthy Froch. Photo by Joan Marcus.

This tender and uplifting story is directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The King and I) with all-new spectacular choreography (including the epic bottle dance) by famed Israeli Choreographer, Hofesh Schechter are drawn from authentic folkloric dances and by Jerome Robbins original choreography.  As an added treat, Tevye is played by the critically acclaimed Israeli theatre, film, and TV star Yehezkel Lazarov.  Altogether the cast is seamless.  Notable, too, is Noa Luz Barenblat, as Chava, who reminds me of a young Shirley Jones.

Carolyn Keller, Michael Hegarty, Maite Uzal & Yehezkel Lazarov. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“Tevye’s Dream”, a scene featuring the ghost of Fruma-Sarah, is especially stunning with gargantuan creatures inspired by artist Marc Chagall’s images.  Together they serve as an eerie and phantasmagorical imagining of Tevye’s nightmare – the one in which he and Golde must face the marriage of their independent-minded daughter Tzeitel to the crusty old butcher Lazar Wolf.  “I realize we are the chosen people,” he tells God, “but sometimes couldn’t you choose someone else.”

Olivia Gjurich, Yehezkel Lazarov & the Cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Joan Marcus.

You’ll revel in “If I Were a Rich Man”, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “Miracle of Miracles”, and “Sunrise, Sunset”, all the time-tested tunes that background the important moments of our lives.

The Cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Highly recommended whether you’ve seen it once or a hundred times.

With Maite Uzal as Golde; Kelly Gabrielle Murphy as Tzeitel; Ruthy Froch as Hodel; Emma Taylor Schwartz as Shprintze; Carly Post as Bielke; Carol Beaugard as Yente; Nick Siccone as Motel the tailor; Nick Casaula as Perchik; Jonathan Von Mering as Lazar Wolf; Danny Arnold as Mordcha; David Scott Curtis as Rabbi; Cam Cote as Mendel; Kelly Glyptis as Fruma-Sarah; Jack O’Brian as Constable; Sam McClellan as Fyedka; Ali Arian Molaei as The Fiddler.

Conducted by Michael Gildin with Set Design by Michael Yeargan; Costume Design by Catherine Zuber; Lighting Design by Donald Holder; and Sound Design by Scott Lehrer & Alex Neumann.  Book by Joseph Stein, Music by Jerry Bock and Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

At the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information visit www.TheNationalDC.com or call 1.800.514.3849.

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