Ask a Millennial or Gen-Zer, and they’ll tell you the Baby Boomers are old-fashioned. Ask a Baby Boomer, and they’ll tell you the generation before them were old fashioned. Ask that generation, and, well, you get the idea. Every new, young generation brings about new perspective and a desire to break free from the ideologies set forth by their parent’s generation; to break new ground and shape the world into the way they see it. It’s a tale as old as time, and one that is fully explored in the latest show to hit the Civic Center stage – Fiddler on the Roof!
A beloved theatrical classic, Fiddler on the Roof is the heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and life, love and laughter. Originally opening on Broadway in 1964, Fiddler would go on to win nine Tony Awards, including the 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical. And while you might think that a show which has been around 56 years would feel old-fashioned and stale, you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, this production of Fiddler on the Roof is a revival of the original, with a fresh take on the original designs of the show and killer choreography from acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shecter.
Yehezkel Lazarov, Jonathan Von Mering & the Cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Joan Marcus.
While most people might call Fiddler on the Roof a drama – and I would agree with them, considering its overarching tones of change and loss and persecution of an entire race of people – the show is actually rife with humor which speaks to how expertly Fiddler is written – one minute you’ll be laughing at the antics on stage, and the next you’ll be on the verge of tears. Taking on the lead role of Tevye, the poor dairyman of five (five!) daughters, is Israeli actor, director, and multidisciplinary artist Yehezkel Lazarov. He is nothing short of amazing in the role and it really feels as though it was one he was born to play. The entire cast is just wonderful, but Mr. Lazarov really shines, exuding a wide-range of emotions from the joyful to the heartbreaking and everything in between. Tevye’s wife, Golde, is played by the delightful Maite Uzal. Mrs. Uzal really brings the role to life, playing Golde as the wife with a hard and angry exterior but you know that, underneath, is a woman that deeply loves and cares for her family, even if she refuses to show it most of the time.
Yehezkel Lazarov.Photo by Joan Marcus.
Choreography in musicals is always very hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes it’s not all that interesting, sometimes it goes on too long, and sometimes it doesn’t really seem to serve much purpose other than to be something “flashy” on stage for the sake of it. But with Fiddler, it’s different. Every piece of choreography in the show has purpose and excitement. Utilizing traditional Jewish and Russian dance and movement, there’s something about it that feels significant. It’s almost as if you’re experiencing an entire culture and everything that it embodies since the beginning of time in the choreography on stage. While it really shines in both “To Life” and “The Wedding” that ends Act 1, all of the dance and movement in the show will absolutely hook you in. Each of those numbers, and others, could have been twice as long and it would have been more than fine with me. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t seen it, but once you have, you’ll understand. This new choreography for Fiddler on the Roof really felt like the “ribbon the package”, if you will, and really made the show feel like both a celebration and window into these intersecting cultures.
The set-design isn’t overly minimalistic, but neither is it over-the-top, either. It works very well, and as a result allows the actors room to breathe and move and fill up the stage. The costume design feels right and appropriate for the time, and the lighting is very simplistic but in a way that works well. It gives the whole show this somewhat dark and drab feeling, but not in a negative sense. Rather, it feels natural for the cold, wet, harsh setting of Imperial Russia in the early 1900s.
The Cast of Fiddler on the Roof.Photo by Joan Marcus.
Fiddler on the Roof is a lot of things and will speak to everyone in a different way. The overall themes and story feel, in a lot of ways, analogues to many of the issues we face even today. And even though Fiddler is about a poor Jewish family and their plight to make a life and survive in a country that doesn’t necessarily want them, for good or ill it feels like a universal story that everyone, in any time and in any culture, can connect to. While the ending is tragic, it’s the spirit and hope of the people whose lives we’ve taken a small glimpse at, that will leave you leaving the theatre uplifted and hopeful that while life is hard and sometimes unfair and oftentimes difficult, there’s always hope that things will be better, and if we hold onto that hope, it will sustain us and see us through even the worst of times.
Fiddler on the Roof runs at the Civic Center Music Hall through this Sunday, September 29th. There are plenty of great seats still available, including a limited number of $26 rush tickets to all performances for students, educators, senior citizens, active military personnel, and first responders only. Regular tickets for all remaining performances can also be purchased any time by calling 405-594-8300, by visiting the Civic Center box office Monday – Friday from 10am – 5pm, or by going online to OKCBroadway.com!
The Cast of Fiddler on the Roof.Photo by Joan Marcus.