I have a long and rather complicated relationship with Fiddler on the Roof, having played Shprintze in my local amdram production some 20 years ago – she’s the daughter that goes on to commit suicide in the original story. Cheery stuff.
But it’s a show I’ve always loved – the first half full of the catchy tunes and big chorus numbers, the second half rather more melancholy but with some real moments of beauty and humour.
So with Jesse Kovarsky – whom my chums and I first discovered in The Drowned Man, where he played Marshall and the Grocer – in the titular role, we knew we had to go see it. Ally and I headed to Times Square, purchased a couple of tickets for the matinee and set ourselves down for two hours of joy and pain. The production was good, but where it really excelled was the dancing – the choreography was traditional, but somehow modern. And with dancers like Jesse and Marla Phelan (also of Punchdrunk), there were some truly electric moments. I particularly enjoyed the little girl in the queue for the restroom telling her mum that her favourite dancer was the Fiddler, but that there was another dancer, a shorter one with a big bushy beard, that she also really liked. She may have been young – I’d guess about 7 – but she clearly had a keen eye, as both her favourites were Jesse.
The other thing the production did really well, was extract every drop of humour from the script – even with the inevitable sadness of the second half, there were plenty of laughs to be had. If I’m being really picky, I didn’t love Tzeitel – her singing wasn’t as strong as Hodel or Chava’s, and I didn’t believe her chemistry with Motel really. And I guess I found Perchik a little too crazy and angry, but I’m nitpicking.
The production has now closed, but if it hadn’t, I’d highly recommend it.