Fiddler on the Roof: A Vibrant Tradition Returns to Broadway

More than 40 years ago, in 1964, Zero Mostel first strode onto a Broadway stage and made the role of Tevye the Milkman in ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ his own.

The show ran for years, and was eventually translated into a successful movie, although many who watched it felt that Topol’s portrayal of Tevye paled by comparison with the manic energy of Zero Mostel.

Now ‘Fiddler’ has returned to Broadway. After all this time, is there anything fresh and meaningful to be discovered in a remounting of this time-tested show?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” The revival of ‘Fiddler,’ which opened on Broadway during the 2004 season to commemorate its 40th anniversary, is still playing to packed houses.

The songs crafted by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick bring Shalom Aleichem’s characters to life, embodying timeless tales of love and loss among the Jewish families living in the Russian village of Anatevka shortly before the Russian revolution.

Currently, the role of Tevye is being brought to flamboyant life by Harvey Fierstein. Last year, Fierstein won a Tony award for his hilarious portrayal of the heroine’s mother (yes, her mother) in ‘Hairspray.’

This year, resplendent in a beard, he is delighting audiences with such classic Broadway standards as ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ and ‘Tradition.’ Fierstein’s voice is an unlikely and beloved Broadway vehicle; it sounds as if he spends his off-stage time gargling with rusty razor blades.

But the rough, gruff growls that rise from his throat move with confidence from boisterous high spirits to tender murmurs of love, pain and longing as he tries to provide a happy future for his five daughters while still obeying the tenets of Jewish tradition.

His long-suffering wife, Golde, is being played by Broadway character actress Andrea Martin, better known to many people as tiny Aunt Voula in the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding.’ She has also endeared herself to an entire generation of children with her portrayal of the Wanda, the Word Fairy, on Sesame Street.

Tevye’s daughters and their suitors have been played, over the decades, by a host of relatively unknown young actors and actresses who have gone on to make a name for themselves. In the original cast, one daughter was played by Julia Migenes, who went on to star in the filmed opera of ‘Carmen’ with Placido Domingo; a suitor was played by Bert Convey, who went on become a television actor and game show host.

And an early replacement for one of the daughters in the play’s original run was a fiery little redhead from Hawaii with a name that’s bound to ring a bell: Bette Midler.

So enjoy this latest chance to visit the residents of Anetevke, either by attending a performance of this revival of ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ or by purchasing the new cast recording. And take note that, among the current crop of daughters, the most promising is an appealing ingÃ?©nue named Laura Shoop, playing the part of Hodel.

Laura Shoop. Remember the name. Someday soon, she may be a star in her own right.

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