The revival of Fiddler on the Roof opened Sunday night at the Broadway Theater and I guess I have to say it’s better than ever and I fought saying that because how does one make a comparison to one of the great musicals of all times which I first saw in 1964. The dancing is simply sensational, the orchestrations the best ever and the cast certainly gives it a super effort to keep us memorized. If you have never seen it (and unless you’re under 6 you probably haven’t) it’s a must see for anyone looking for Broadway's best.
The simple story, set somewhere in Russia around 1905, concerns the life of a dairyman named Tevye who has a wife and 5 daughters. The daughters all want to get married to men of their own choosing and don’t believe in the old matchmaker ways or any of the Jewish religious traditions. Everyone fights for their rights and eventually everyone ends up with what and who they want except that by the time the families’ struggles have been straightened out all of them are forced by the Russian Tsar to evacuate their ideal village of Anatevka.
This time round the star of the show is Danny Burstein who you will remember starred in Lincoln Center's production of South Pacific plays Tevye. Now because I am familiar with its past stars Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Topol and Alfred Molina who were all much older, Danny would not have been my first choice. He’s fine and may of course appeal more to younger audiences who never knew the otter performers but for me his portrayal just misses. Jessica Hecht plays his wife Golde in a somewhat thankless part and along for the ride, besides a great cast of singers and dancers, is Alix Korey who knocks us out as Yente the matchmaker
Finally, and it’s been while, we have a musical that has real sets, real costumes and a cast of more than 40 which these eyes haven’t seen in a long time. And then there’s the wonderful songs of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. In case you’ve forgotten them (but how could you) they include Tradition, Matchmaker, Matchmaker, If I were a Rich Man, Miracle of Miracles, To Life and Sunrise Sunset. To hear them again and to see the accompanying Jerome Robbins dance numbers are good enough for you to shell out major dollars for you and the family.
Just one caveat about the show…it is way too long at almost 3 hours but if you’re tired and if the kids are getting restless, leave after the almost 2 hour first act. That act contains all the songs you’ve ever loved and avoids you hanging around to see the end of a story which is not exactly uplifting. On the other hand there has been a much talked about ending to this show not seen before and if you can handle another hour in a tight seat, for heaven’s sake stay until the end and stand up and applaud like everyone does.
Fiddler on the roof...may he stay on that roof (or at least on Broadway) forever!