In 1964 at the Imperial Theatre, in New York City, I saw my first performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” starring Zero Mostel opening week and I wouldn’t see another stage production of the show until 55 years later in Fort Lauderdale at the Performing Arts Center last night and it was magic, once again.
As the show starts we are transported to Anatevka, a shtel (small Jewish town) in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. We are introduced to Tevye who explains the "Traditions" of Jewish life, opening the musical with a showstopper, not only with the song but with Yehezkel Lazarov who is in such command of the stage that even when he is very rarely off stage you can still fill his presence among the other performers. His talks with God range from funny to touching adding just the right body and facial motions. The same goes throughout the show no matter who he is interacting with and what the situation is taking place. In addition, he has a strong voice with varied inflections in such songs as "If I Were A Rich Man" and is very tender in a duet with Golde, played by Maite Uzal, where he sings, "Do You Love Me?".
The score with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnik contains the above-mentioned songs along with what has become a traditional wedding song "Sunrise, Sunset", two joyful love songs "Miracle of Miracles" and "Now I Have Everything", a funny, crazy "Tevye's Dream" and a dance number at "The Wedding" that had more than one audience member tapping their feet.
The book by Joseph Stein covers many aspects of Jewish families and small Russian town life at that point from traditions being broken, 3 of 5 daughters who, while singing "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" start to show independence that Tevye and Golde are not quite ready for and their interaction with men not picked for them. We are faced with the exodus to Siberia, America, Jerusalem among other places not by choice by a family being torn apart by life that is as precarious as that fiddler on a roof.
Looking over the Who's Who in the program many of the cast are either making their national tour or professional debuts but you never could tell from the work being done on the stage. The main ladies from Golde, Maite Uzal, to the 3 daughters Mel Weyn, Ruthy Froch and Danielle to the 3 men in their lives Jesse Weil, Ryne Nardecchia and Jonathan Von Mering to individual townspeople along with the ensemble there is not a funny moment missed nor a heart touching segment that doesn't work.
Based on the original Broadway production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins the production values are tops for a touring company along with an 11 piece orchestra conducted by Michael Uselmann that aids and abets every singer and dancer to do their bets.
While watching this production I forgot the show I saw at the Imperial Theatre and I know I didn't cry (yes, a lot of crying) or laugh (yes, a lot of laughing) as much that evening as I did this evening!
Playing time: 3 hours with a 15-minute intermission.