Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fiddler on the Roof ****

My theater-going year got off to a very satisfying start with the excellent revival of this beloved 1964 musical now on Broadway. With its wonderful music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and excellent book by Joseph Stein, the show is virtually indestructible. Not even the absence of Jerome Robbins’s direction and choreography threatens its almost inevitable success. Bartlett Sher, who has so adeptly directed revivals of classic musicals at Lincoln Center, does not disappoint. Except for a brief framing device that I found somewhat ineffective, he is entirely respectful to the material. Hofesh Sheather’s choreography is true to the spirit of Robbins. Ultimately, the show’s success rests on its Tevye. Danny Burstein is superb, offering more humanity and less shtick than some of his predecessors. I was skeptical of casting Jessica Hecht, an actress I often find too mannered, as Golde, but she surprised me with a thoughtful, understated performance. Alexandra Silber, Samantha Massell and Melanie Moore are all fine as daughters Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava. Adam Kantor as Motel and Ben Rappaport as Perchik are also strong. Alix Korey as Yente seemed a bit too broad in her first scene, but calmed down a bit later. The other actors, too numerous to list here, were generally strong. The set by Michael Yeargan, through its use of floating buildings that grow smaller as the story progresses, reinforces the play’s theme. Catherine Zuber's costumes are fine too. Ted Sperling’s musical direction is exemplary. The show’s emotional highlights worked their usual magic on me. It’s good to have this stellar example of the golden age of American musicals back in town. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.

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