© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bob Goepfert Reviews "Fiddler On The Roof" At Proctors

If you asked a random sampling of theatergoers to name a list of their top ten favorite musicals, there is little doubt that “ Fiddler on the Roof” would be named on every ballot. 
The production that runs at Proctors in Schenectady through Sunday reveals the reason why the show is beloved.   

It has a glorious score that is at times joyous, sometimes sad, often touching and always human.  The fun in this production is being reminded that the songs are not only lovely, but the lyrics are prose-like.  Songs like ”Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Sunrise Sunset,” and “To Life” bring a smile to your face and often a tear to your eye.   

The duet “Do You Love Me?” is usually a comic throwaway, but at Proctors it’s a tender ode to a comfortable love that is tender and sweet.

A reason each number seems fresh is because director Bartlett Sher integrates them so effectively into the story of poor Jewish villagers fighting for survival.  The way they survive is to hold onto the traditions of the past which give them something to believe in.   

Outside the entertainment industry few people know how great a director is Sher. This season he is represented on Broadway as the director of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

In this production he incorporates reminders of his other successes.   This “Fiddler” has the ritual beauty of “The King and I.”   And like he did with “The Light in the Piazza,” he makes sensitive the touching theme that love can be beautiful, even if illogical.   And, as with the straight political drama “Oslo,” he makes a plea for political understanding between traditional enemies.

Sher’s direction, as recreated by Sari Ketter, keeps the focus on the story of Tevye, a poor dairyman and his family living in Russia, circa 1905.  But he makes clear the poor Jews who are thrown out of their village by the Czar are akin to the refugees that today can be found in every corner of the world.   

As powerful as are the political aspects of the play, nothing is done in a way that interferes with the heartfelt story about a simple man who is caught in the middle of a rapidly changing world.

And fear not, as thoughtful and as provoking as this production is, it is enormously entertaining as well. For this, much credit must go to Yehezkel Lazarov who is a magnificent Teyve.  Lazarov brings powerful charisma to the role that makes him a genuine, vulnerable and very real human being.  

Lazarov initially plays Tevye as a youthful man who honors his God and loves his family.   He lives a tough life, but counters it with a playful cynicism.  But as the play progresses, his life becomes harder and his three eldest daughters each break tradition by marrying for love.  The weight alters Tevye and he grows older in every scene.

The beauty in Lazarov‘s performances is his resilience.   Everything in his life changes, but he never loses his faith or his love of family. It’s an endearing, beautiful performance.   

The production also makes honest the relationship between Tevye and his wife Golde.  Played by Maite Uzal, Golde is a realist who controls the family with strength and cool affection.  Tevye is a man who never waivers in his devotion to family.   Golde is the person who will never let her family waiver, no matter how dire the circumstances.

This production of “Fiddler” also breaks tradition as it removes the choreography of Jerome Robbins.   The decision turns what could be blasphemy into a minor miracle.  Hofesh Shecter’s choreography, recreated by Christopher Evans, brings a powerful energy to the dances.  They are raw, diverse and amazingly well-performed.  And, yes, the bottle dance is still a highlight of the evening.

The production at Proctors through Sunday is a fresh look at a familiar story.  It will touch you on a personal level and remind you how unfair the world was, and still is today.

“Fiddler on the Roof,” Proctors, Schenectady.  Through Sunday.  For tickets and schedule information call 518-346-6204 or go to proctors.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content