Reflective and joyous ‘Fiddler’ deserves applause

Fiddler on the Roof (Joan Marcus photo)
Fiddler on the Roof (Joan Marcus photo)

3.5 stars

The exceptional voice and expressive movements of Israeli actor, dancer  Yehezkel Lazarov, alone, make the “Fiddler on the Roof,” the 2015 Broadway revival, worth the ticket.

Add  in the fine cast, Michael Yeargan’s creatively low-contrasting set design, Catherine Zuber’s dream-scene costumes and Christopher Evens’ recreated choreography  inspired in part by Jerome Robbins, and audiences see a memorable, highly charged, redo of the 1964 Tony-Award winning musical.

Current audiences may not remember that this musical with book by Joseph Stein based on tales by Sholem Aleichem including his “Tevye and his Daughters,” end with the villagers being forced by the Russia’s tsar to leave their homes.

But this revival has Lazarov, somewhat clothed contemporary-styled and holding a book, looking at the village’s railroad sign against the background noise of a speeding train.

Remember it because the show ends with Lazarov back in his opening apparel, pulling the “fiddler,” nicely done by Paul Morland, in to the exodus with him to the station.

And that is just the opening and closing of what Lincoln Center Theater Director (“My Fair Lady”) Bartlett Sher has wrought. Every song and every dance number elicited highly appreciative applause. Every interaction of the daughters fighting tradition in their quest for happiness had the audience worriedly wondering how Tevia would react and handle breaks with tradition.

Lazarov as a philosophical Tevye didn’t disappoint. What was disappointing was Maite Uzal’s shrewish interpretation of Tevye’s wife, Golde. The director ought to have her dial back her harsh, mean-spirited sounding responses. She can be strong-willed and even demanding without sounding nasty.

Of course the show features such memorable Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) songs as “Tradition” “If I Were A Rich Man,” “Sunrise Sunset” and “To Life,”  with new orchestrations by “Ted Sperling.

However, except for Lazarov and the wonderful voice of Ruthy Froch as  second oldest daughter Hodel, the voices blend well instead of standing out on their own. Jesse Weil as Motel the tailor, sounded particularly weak making me wonder if he was nursing a cold.

The touring revival was the best-staged “Fiddler” I’ve seen in a long time. Just expect a long first act and a total 2 hours, 55 minutes (one intermission).

It’s an excellent production but given the musical’s length of almost three hours (15 min intermission) because of well-executed but too long dance sequences, a few minutes could be cut from the dances in both the first and second act and still have an exciting show.

DETAILS: “Fiddler on the Roof,” presented by Broadway in Chicago, is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicag0,  through Jan. 6, 2019. Running time: 2 hrs, 55 minutes (one intermission). For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

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