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  • Writer's pictureladiesvoices

*Fiddler on the Roof,* 7/5/19

Richard and I saw *Fiddler on the Roof* off Broadway on 7/5/19. There have been two major revivals of *Fiddler* in New York in the sixteen years since I’ve lived here, so it might seem a little soon to be seeing it again - - but the thing that makes this production so special is that the show is performed in Yiddish. All of the dialogue, all of the songs, in Yiddish. Thankfully, with titles, so you could follow the words (if, like me, you don’t speak Yiddish). The thing that struck me most is what an extraordinary show it is. So many wonderful, beautiful songs and such a sure sense of how to construct a great musical, how to do something new but do it in a time-honored way. The first act ends (spoiler alert) at the wedding of Tevye’s eldest daughter, which is interrupted by a pogrom. I can’t imagine how shocking this must have been when the show was new, in 1964. And Richard made the valid point that it was not so long after WWII. I felt the Yiddish element of the production added a lot, it added flavor and (it goes without saying) strengthened the already strong Jewish identity of the show. Steven Skybell, who played the central character, Tevye, was head and shoulders above the rest of the cast in terms of his comfort and expressiveness with the Yiddish. And what a rare treat to have a youngish, handsome, slender Tevye! Jennifer Babiak played his wife, she had an exceptionally lovely voice, something you don’t always hear in this role. The only actor I knew was Jackie Hoffman, who played the matchmaker. She delivered her standard sardonic spiel, and she was funny, but I noticed in the ensemble scenes she seemed to be merely going through the motions. That was a disappointment. One final note: the show was directed by the one and only Joel Grey.

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