Reviewing a classic musical, such as the Durham Performing Arts Center’s Jan. 8-13 presentation of Fiddler on the Roof, produced by NETworks Presentations and directed by Bartlett Sher, is a bit tricky. After all, it belongs in the Pantheon of musical theater along with the likes of West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Les Misérables … well, you get the idea. A small number of shows reach the triple crown of great story, great music, and great heart.
As such, a review for a show of this quality and legacy is primarily about the quality of the production. Frankly, even a mediocre production of a great show should only prevent the most veteran theater aficionado from seeing this. Certainly, those who have never seen this jewel absolutely should attend.
Thankfully, this is not in any way a mediocre production. It gets high marks in every way. I don’t think that I could give a play a higher recommendation. Most notably, I feel as though this production is important to see even for those who have seen it multiple times before.
For those who are not familiar with Jerome Robbins’ Fiddler on the Roof, here is some background. The show opened on Broadway in 1964 and took home nine Tony Awards®, sweeping all of the major categories including Best Book by Joseph Stein, and Best Music and Lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. It also held the record as the longest-running show on Broadway for over a decade after in closed.
Fiddler on the Roof is based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem about Tevye the Dairyman, a poor farmer living in a Russian Shtetl with his wife and five daughters. It takes place in 1905 at a time when the Tsar was persecuting Jews throughout Russia. Tevye has a running and primarily comedic one-way conversation with God throughout the show.
The present production opens with Tevye and the townspeople singing about their way of life through the song “Tradition.” It is a rousing and uplifting start to the show and clearly lays out the setting. Fiddler continues with a grand variety of songs and dances that depict the ups and downs of the life of these devout people.
Among the upside events are stories of love and marriage. The downside includes issues with the Russian authorities as well as the effects of poverty. The main theme of the changing of the times meanders throughout the show.
The music is familiar and wonderful. The orchestra features the Klezmer sound of clarinets to support interesting and enthusiastic dancing. Hofesh Shechter’s choreography was spot on as well. Even better to me was the acting and storytelling between the numbers. The vocal talents of the cast were all as good as you will see or hear on stage.
The direction freshened up the story very slightly, but in interesting ways and not so much as to be a distraction to traditionalists. This was most notable in some very slight alterations to the tempo of some of the songs. I was pleased with the results.
Maite Uzal as Tevye’s wife Golde; Mel Weyn (Tzeitel), Ruthy Froch (Hodel), and Natalie Powers (Chava); and Jesse Weil (Motel the Tailor) were particular standouts. The daughters’ rendition of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” was amazing.
Still, Fiddler on the Roof begins and ends with Tevye. It is a tour-de-force role requiring an actor who can not only sing, dance, and act, but can carry a show. Yehezkel Lazarov accomplished all of this and more. With a deft comedic hand, he made the role stand out at every turn providing laughter and tears.
Go see this show! It is not to be missed … and above all, take your kids. I had the good fortune to have grandparents who took me to see it on Broadway as a boy. I have been in love with the theater ever since.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 9th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Review by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-FIDDLER-ON-THE-ROOF-National-Tour-at-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20190109 and Jan. 6th BWW TV interview with actor David Ferguson, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-David-Ferguson-of-FIDDLER-ON-THE-ROOF-National-Tour-20190106; and Jan. 9th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/01/steeped-in-tradition-dpacs-fiddler-on-the-roof-is-still-relevant-and-engaging/.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 8 p.m. Jan. 11, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 12, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here for information about the Digital Lottery and here for other DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/843989.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/fiddler-on-the-roof and https://www.facebook.com/events/1104886629680686/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://fiddlermusical.com/videos/.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/fiddler-on-the-roof-on-sale-october-4.
DPAC‘S 2018-19 “IT’S OUR NEW YORK, NEW YORK” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2018-19.
THE TOUR: http://fiddlermusical.com/, https://www.facebook.com/FiddlerBroadway, https://twitter.com/FiddlerBroadway, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa2QsGcJXW4nWajMzfg6n_Q.
TOUR CAST: http://fiddlermusical.com/bios/.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM (scroll down): http://fiddlermusical.com/bios/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12th, performance.
Robert O’Connell is new to the Triangle, but not to the stage. As a playwright, he has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has an MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O’Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.