JUNE 29: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

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Fiddler Chagall painting copyThis post is about a theater outing on June 29th to go to the matinee performance of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.   This is a bit of an experiment as we generally taper off on activities as we hit deep summer – but this seemed too good to pass up !  The deadline for this will be relatively soon – before we have to commit to the tickets – to make sure there are enough MWC’ers available to go.  If not, we will cancel.  However, if you’ve never seen FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – it’s time – and you should go see it with or without the group!  Members, go to the “Sign-Up” link on the  members home page or the Reservations/ Payment link under “Members’ Info” to get a ticket for June 29th.  Feel free to invite a friend.  TIckets are $115. per person.

If I ever get to be emperor of anyplace (or maybe just Broadway), I think I will decree that no one can see FIDDLER ON THE ROOF unless you’re at least 40 years old – but it’s required viewing for everyone over that age!   This now-classic, deservedly-lauded work has at times risked seeming clichéd.  For many, many people – especially those of Jewish descent – FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has been an obligatory must-Mostel Fiddlersee.  As an adolescent babysitter I spent many a Saturday afternoon taking my charges to FIDDLER.  (Don’t get me started on “Sound of Music”!)  My incredibly advanced, cultured estimation at that time was that the music was “nice” and the story was “weird.”

Fast forward several generations or so when, about ten years ago, I am socially obligated to go see FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.  But then – BOOM!   As I somewhat ambivalently settled into my seat, I wasn’t at all prepared for the emotional and artistic experience I was about to undergo.   How had I missed the emotional resonance of the experiences of an impoverished Russian milkman, burdened with five daughters needing husbands, living in the Pale of Settlement (aka … Jewish ghetto) in Imperial Russia in 1905?   How had I not appreciated the universality of his struggles in relation to contemporary life?   Having expected so little when I entered the theater, I left it a slobbering, emotional wreck – overwhelmed with thoughts about historic, political cruelty and injustice and the vicissitudes of fate, traditions and parenting.  And, yet, this is a musical with joy, hope and heaps of humor.   Oy – may I use your handkerchief, please?

So, if you haven’t seen it recently, or ever, you now have a chance to see this pluperfect musical and dramatic work.  – In an astonishing production made ever-more relevant right now as we’re all thinking about political dislocation and refugees.  GO.  SEE.  FIDDLER.

brustein fiddlerThe production stars the truly incomparable Danny Burstein, an amazing triple-threat singer, actor and dancer who seems to be constantly employed.  He has been seen on Broadway recently as the forlorn Buddy in FOLLIES, as the comedic Luther Billis in SOUTH PACIFIC and as the doomed Herr Schultz in CABARET.  This casting is overwhelmingly important since FIDDLER’s central character is the now iconic Tevye whose life, circumstances and outlook are the basis for the story.

This current, Bartlett Sher, production is the fifth time FIDDLER has been revived on Broadway.  When it was first produced in 1964 it established a ten-year “longest-running” record for a musical.  It won nine Tony Awards, including for Best Musical.  Zero Mostel also won a Tony for the role of  Tevye, which he originated  (also played in other Bette Midler Fiddlerproductions by Theodore Bikel, Topol and Harvey Fierstein) – and he was forever, indelibly, linked to the part.  Thousands of other performers have cycled through the many FIDDLER productions over the years – including Bette Midler who became a replacement Tzeitel in the original production.

The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, was the first musical theatre production to surpass 3,000 performances.  Yet early investors and critics worried that it was “too Jewish” while others (notably Philip Roth) felt it was “too sanitized” and dismissed it as “shtetl kitsch.”  But, ha!, they were both wrong and this astonishing work has continued to move mainstream audiences of all backgrounds, ethnicities and socio-economic levels for over fifty years.

So, what’s the difference between something which is a cliché and that which is universal?  My guess is emotional depth and maturity, an exceedingly high level of artistry and interpretation – and perfect execution.  But this is a production for you to answer that question for yourself.

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