Director Bartlett Sher’s critically acclaimed revival of the 1964 Broadway classic “Fiddler on the Roof” brings the tale of Tevye, a poor Jewish dairyman living in Tsarist Russia, and his family to Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Tevye (Yehezkel Lazarov) is a peasant who tries to marry off his five daughters to prospective husbands in hopes that they will enjoy bountiful lives different from his own. As his daughters break traditional norms to find their own paths instead, Tevye embarks on a journey with himself to reckon with the end of tradition and praxis, as political turmoil upends their lives. A witty critique of class and wealth, “Fiddler on the Roof” explores the depths of family, love, and resistance. Its comical nature envelopes the audience in a way that makes the familiality and traditions specific to Jewish culture a universal theme to be related to.
Yehezkel Lazarov delivers an absolutely stunning performance as Tevye. Through electrifying solos, specifically “If I Were A Rich Man” (which I had no idea would later be sampled for Gwen Stefani’s “If I Were A Rich Girl”) and hilarious soliloquies in his one-on-one chats with God, Lazarov shows excellent command of the stage and his craft, even as he maintains a jovial buoyancy to his character. Back and forth bickering with his wife Golde (Maite Uzal), as she works hard and keeps her family in check, reveals undeniable chemistry between the two.
Daughters Tzeitel (Kelly Gabrielle Murphy), Hodel (Ruthy Froch), and Chava (Noa Luz Barenblat) struggle to escape the matchmaker, Yente’s (Brooke Wetterhahn) life sentences for each of them, navigating feminism and learning to break free from the patriarchy.
Solomon Reynolds, who plays Perchik, a revolutionary student who becomes Hodel’s love interest, also gives a dynamically hilarious performance. When he rebutts one of the villagers, “Girls are people too!” the villager replies, “A radical!”
While dialogue for “Fiddler” stayed mostly light-hearted, the score and soundtrack drew the audience into a deeper, more poignant trance. In “Sunrise, Sunset,” performed by Tevye, Golde, Perchik, Hodel, and the ensemble, a somber tone evokes a powerful melancholy: “Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?/Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset.”
Director Bartlett Sher and choreographer Hofesh Shechter make brilliant use of a split stage, displaying a masterful dichotomy between the outside world and our characters’ inner dialogues and temperaments. In the number “To Life,” our protagonist Tevye stumbles drunkenly in the middle of a boisterously festive dance celebration for the announcement of his eldest daughter’s wedding. The choreography is robust, precise, incredibly dynamic — dancers twirl and stomp in synchronization in a style that’s specific to Eastern Europe.
The heartwrenching “Chavaleh” wrangles with the pain of loss, using a mystifying silk screen to discern between the past and the present. As the image of his precious daughter Chava flits just yards away from him, a grieving Tevye remains unable to reach her, barricaded by just a thin sheet of fabric and light effects.
Set designer Michael Yeargan’s attention to detail did not go unnoticed either. I found the specificities to Russo-Jewish culture laudable; the details to light, effects, and props synced perfectly with each changing scene of the show. One particular moment comes during Tzeitel’s wedding. What begins with festive joyous line dancing, bright lights, and colorful background with gifts piled high quickly shifts into a jarring scene of intrusion and chaos as Tsarist officials break in, destroy property, and physically assault the villagers. Yeargan’s stage goes staunchly dark, lonely, and somber.
There is something to be said for lack of individuality in distinguishing the sisters’ wardrobes. While peasant life in Tsarist-Russia is no lavish lifestyle by any means, I found it difficult at times to follow along with each sister’s storyline purely because their wardrobes were so similar.
Throughout Act Two, I couldn’t help but to draw parallels between the politics of Tsarist Russia and the contemporary United States. Though nowhere near as authoritative, class distinctions and struggles for worker’s rights and gender equality still persist. But “Fiddler” manages to capture the best of political disruption in a way that’s memorable, heartstrings-pulling, and timeless.
VOX ATL teens had the opportunity to attend “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Fox Theatre, thanks to the generosity of Most Valuable Kids of Greater Atlanta.