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Jan 24, 2020

TRADITION! Fiddler on the Roof Preview

By Broadway Live INSIDER - Michael J. Miller

Director Bartlett Sher is widely acknowledged as the current master of revivifying canonical mid-century musicals. His 2014 staging of “The King and I” won the Tony Award for best revival of a musical; his “South Pacific” won it in 2008.

He now turns his much-praised attention to another Broadway classic, “Fiddler on the Roof”, as the national tour of his recent production graces the Opera House stage this February.

As with his other revivals, Sher’s innovations in “Fiddler” are found in how the show looks- staging, sets, lighting, and costumes. Of particular interest here will be the choreography. The estate of Jerome Robbins, the creator of the original 1964 production, has lifted restrictions on altering the original dances. Sher has brought in the Israeli-born percussive postmodernist Hofesh Shechter to make new ones. Devotees of the classic will be thankful to note that the text and score haven’t been tampered with.

“Fiddler” is, of course, based on short stories written in Yiddish by Sholem Aleichem in the early 1900’s. It’s telling of those stories depicting Eastern European life with pride and affection was a first and a societal landmark in American popular culture when it opened on Broadway fifty-five years ago.

Alisa Solomon, a professor at the Columbia Journalism School and author of a book on the significance of “Fiddler”, notes the original production helped audiences of the day respond to “turbulent changes gathering forces in the early nineteen-sixties.” The shows rebellious daughters carried the flame of women’s liberation; its decrial of bigotry reverberated with the civil-rights movement; its timeliness with a shift toward a national self-definition of the United States as a country of immigrants.

It’s resonance in 1960’s America will certainly ring true in the context of today’s political and social climate. 

Tradition, indeed.