“Fiddler on the Roof” takes the audience on a journey that starts with exuberant joy and ends with deep sorrow.
Broadway in Tucson has brought the road show of the Bartlett Sher-directed musical to Centennial Hall and it’s clear that though it is now 55, “Fiddler” never gets old.
Tevye is a poor dairyman in the Russian shtetl of Anatevka. The year is 1905, when revolution is brewing and Jews are more and more ostracized.
Tevye is our narrator as we learn of life in the shtetl, tradition, faith, love and the burden of being poor and having five daughters.
Sher begins the production with a lone man in modern dress standing on a train platform. A sign tells us he is in Anatevka. He picks up a book and begins to read, then quickly discards the red parka to reveal peasant garb and his prayer shawl. He has morphed into Tevye.
This non-union road show had some glorious moments.
The opening number, “Tradition,” can take your breath away both because the song is so buoyant and because Hofesh Shecter’s choreography is so engaging.
The same is true for the first act’s last scene, which starts with a wedding celebration wrapped in boundless exuberance and ends with a frightening glimpse into what is ahead for the Jews in Anatevka.
Yehezkel Lazarov as Tevye carried this show. His organic performance and strong presence made up for some weak performances.
Weakest among them was Carol Beaugard as Yente, the matchmaker. It’s a very funny role, yet her portrayal was so flat that we never got the chance to laugh.
But the play’s power can’t be denied, especially in this production: In the final scene, all of the Jews in Anatevka are told to leave. They walk in a circle and Tevye rejoins them, once again in that red parka. The message is clear: When it comes to immigration and the mistreatment of human beings, little has changed.