(Photo by Joan Marcus)
Written by Patrick Chavis
When it comes to storytelling there is often overlap with certain themes. Storytelling doesn’t happen in a bubble. Stories are told by humans, and because of similar life experiences, similar themes pop up in different stories. It’s the nature of the beast. While watching Fiddler on the Roof at Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts one of these themes pops up. The philosophical struggle between tradition and an ever-changing world and how do we cope with it? Fiddler may have one of the most nuanced solutions.
Fiddler is the story of a poor, Jewish, dairy farmer named Tevye played by Yehezkel Lazarov. He lives in a fictional town in Russia called Anatevka in 1905 with his Wife Golda (Maite Uzal) and his five daughters. Through Tevye’s perspective, we watch as the world rapidly changes around him and challenges his strongly held beliefs and traditions.
Fiddler on the Roof is a musical, but it’s also a great play on its own merits. Take out the songs and musical numbers from Fiddler and you still have a story of struggle, discrimination, identity and, most importantly, a story about love. The songs in Fiddler are there to communicate the point of the scene and uplift the story. The emotional pathos the audience receives from each song has such a grounding in the characters’ lives, and it’s understood because we’ve become friends with Tevye in a way and feel for him and the characters around him.
I’m a fan of many of the songs in this musical, but I gravitate towards two songs in particular, “Do You Love Me” and “If I Were A Rich Man.” This production was no different. Lazaorov’s version of “If I Were A Rich Man” is performed in a very loose, comical style. “Do You Love Me?” a song between Tevye and his wife Golda is simple, but in this reviewer’s opinion, it’s the heart of the show. This version is beautifully performed by Uzal and Lazarov.
Overall the set design in this production is adequate enough to tell the story — except during “Tevye’s Dream,” which featured the show’s best stage design. The costuming and choreography are incredibly creative. It’s one of my favorite parts of this production.
There’s a good reason Fiddler has graced so many stages since its first Broadway production in 1964. The story and characters are surely different then how we are today, but we still deal with similar issues concerning tribe, tradition, progress and, most importantly, love.