On the one hand FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a timeless classic. On the other hand FIDDLER’s revival isn’t. Directed by Bartlett Sher who has beautifully and successfully helmed The King and I and South Pacific revivals - his golden touch is in short supply here at the Broadway Theatre where this lethargic and disjointed production limps along without much life.
Missing also is the genius of Jerome Robbins. Whatever you may think of him personally he knew what worked and what didn’t and could create a total show – an entertaining entity where all the pieces fit together perfectly. Not so here.
Mr. Robbins has been replaced by choreographer Hofesh Shechter whose wild arm waving dances have been inspired by Mr. Robbins work – sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Most memorable is the bottle balancing on-top-of-hat number created by Mr. Robbins.
The storybook sets (Michael Yeargan) are also problematic as pieces fly in and out and actors carry on or wheel off chairs and carts and trees (horrible trees) distracting and prolonging scene changes.
Beginning on the cavernous bare stage we hear a train and see a single chair and a sign that tells us we are in Anatevka as Danny Burstein (Tevye) – a humble and poor dairyman with five daughters enters wearing a modern red parka. He begins to read from Sholom Aleichem’s stories that bore FIDDLER. Removing said parka he segues into the past come alive with the company singing a rousing TRADITION. It’s downhill from there.
The casting of the extremely talented Danny Burstein was a bold and odd choice. Who could erase the memory of Zero Mostel in the original production? No one. And so we have a more naturalistic interpretation. Smaller, more quiet more human. But the role requires someone with more vitality - more bravado – a larger than life force to deal with the “changes that are on the way.”
As his wife Golde, Jessica Hecht strives and succeeds at being shrewish. How five daughters resulted is a question I’d rather not ponder.
Of the five daughters – who are remarkably dull only Melanie Moore impresses as the studious Chava who has the nerve to fall in love with a non-Jew Fyedka (Nick Rehberger) - Adam Kantor as Motel – the shy tailor is excellent - loving Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber) more than his longed for sewing machine.
Ben Rappaport succeeds as Perchik a radical student wooing, dancing and getting engaged to Hodel (Samantha Massell). In these “love matches” the men outshine the women.
Am I kvetching too much? Perhaps. But I was so disappointed with the production and its slow pace and the appearance that the characters really couldn’t care less about each other that I became disinterested. Even Tevye’s talks to God didn’t work.
A highlight was Yente, the matchmaker portrayed with skill and humor by Alix Korey who deals with the cards she is dealt with great attitude.
Children, marriage, love, superstitions, traditions, and faith will survive as will FIDDLER with its lush and gorgeous score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein.
Please have the fiddler fix his bow string.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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