The musical Fiddler On The Roof opens with a song that contains only one word in its title: Tradition. The denizens of Tsarist era Anatevka live and breathe tradition. Every aspect of their lives, from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep is defined by tradition. But the world is changing and those traditions are about to be shaken to their core.
Based on the story Tevye and his daughters by legendary Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem, the most recent revival has been open for only a short time. Tevye (Danny Burstein) is a poor milkman with five daughters. He lives in a world where everything and everyone is defined by rules that have been respected for an untold number of generations. His wife, Golde (Jessica Hecht) tries to care for her husband and five daughters as best she can, considering their circumstances.
While Tevye and Golde live by the rules of their world, their elder daughters don’t know that they are going to change the rules. Eldest daughter Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber) wants to marry her childhood sweetheart, Motel (Adam Kantor), but her father has just agreed to a betrothal to the much older town butcher. Second oldest daughter Hodel (Samantha Massell) falls for the new guy in town, Perchik (Ben Rappaport), a teacher with revolutionary ideas. Middle daughter Chava (Melanie Moore) breaks the biggest rule of all by marrying Fyedka (Nick Rehberger), a Christian boy. None of these matches were made by the town matchmaker, Yenta (Alix Korey). Adding to the shaking of Tevye’s world is the fact that Jewish towns are slowly being emptied of their residents by the government who is forcing them out.
As Tevye, Burstein is sarcastic, funny, charming, but also a man who is slowly realizing that the world he knows is slowly coming to an end. Hecht, in the role of Golde, represents the fact that Jewish women of this era, living in this socio-economic state were not meek and mild yes women to their husbands. They had to be strong, smart and capable to raise their children in very tough circumstances. As the eldest daughters, Silber, Massell and Moore represent a new generation of young women who wanted to make their own choices. They are not satisfied with living the lives that their mothers and grandmothers lived.
As a product of this world, I have always had a great affinity for this musical. It is a reminder of what was and will never be again. It is also a very human musical with themes of tradition, family, watching your children grow up and watching the world change. No matter who you are or where you are from, we can all relate to that.
This story also feels very timely, especially with the news from the Middle East and around the world.
I highly recommend this musical.
Fiddler On The Roof is playing at 1681 Broadway in New York City.