“Fiddler on the Roof,” the beloved theatrical classic playing in Houston as part of the Broadway at the Hobby Center 2021-22 season through May 1, is a familiar tale of complicated family relations that take place in the midst of worldly upset, upheaval and transition.
The touring production from Tony Award-winner Joseph Stein and Pulitzer Prize winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick features all the beloved songs and stories “Fiddler” is known for, from the opening show-stopper, “Tradition,” to “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were A Rich Man,” and others.
“Fiddler” is based on Yiddish tales written about Jewish life in the Pale of Settlement in Imperial Russia at the turn of the 20th century, and it debuted on Broadway in 1964, the same year the Beatles had their first number one hit in America.
But under the direction of Tony Award-winner Bartlett Sher and choreographed by the acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, this production is fresh and entertaining, its back story of pointless Jewish persecution sadly still relevant in 2022.
Father Tevye (Israeli actor/director Yehezkel Lazarov) is imminently watchable as a poor man of dogged faith whose love of tradition is challenged again and again, often by those closest to him. Lazarov’s world-weary reactions were an audience favorite. His joy is contagious, his outrage authentic and his despair might as well have left a puddle of tears on the stage.
Tevye’s three eldest daughters, one by one, are targeted for wedded bliss by a busybody matchmaker Yente (Brooke Wetterhahn). Of course, it’s all pretty ironic, since Tevye and wife Golde (Maite Uzal) communicate their affection through a steady stream of tart-tongued sarcasm that’s clearly been marinating throughout most of their 25-year marriage.
Young love, though, is always sweet. The budding relationship between Tzeitel (Kelly Gabreielle Murphy) and Motel, the tailor (Daniel Kushner), conducted in subterfuge while Yente attempts to marry her to someone else, provides audiences with a treat via a standout performance from Kushner. According to the program notes, this is his first national tour, but he charms in his awkward and adorable pursuit of Tzeitel, and his solo, “Miracle of Miracles,” is memorable and heartfelt.
The key role of changemaker Perchik (Solomon Reynolds), provides an opportunity for another young performer to shine in the role of the non-religious Jewish teacher who embraces change, socialism and, eventually, one of Tevye’s daughters.
With the staging of “Tevye’s Dream,” and “The Rumor,” the revival of this much-loved musical also offers dazzling production triumphs, whether the focus is on the eerie (and gigantic) former wife of the butcher Tzeitel is supposed to marry, or bottle-balancing dancers.
The final scene is composed like a photograph that brings together past and present, a perfect ending to this “Fiddler,” that speaks to a new generation at just the right time.
“Fiddler on the Roof,” runs from April 26th to May 1st at The Hobby. Tickets can be purchased at hobbycenter.org or at the box office on 800 Bagby St. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday nights at 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00pm; with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00pm., as well as a 7:30 p.m. performance on Sunday.
Cover photo courtesy Joan Marcus