Friday, January 22, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Fiddler on the Roof

The cast of Fiddler. Photo: Joan Marcus

It Breaks With Tradition, but this Choreography is Worth Watching
By Lauren Yarger
Fiddler on the Roof with music by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and a book by Joseph Stein, based on the stories of Sholom Aleicheim, has been a part of theater tradition as long as I can remember.

Ever since Zero Mostel made the part of Tevye the milkman his own (he won the Tony in 1965 and reprised the role in the 1976 revivial) the wonderful songs like, “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Miracle of Miracles,” “To Life,” Do You Love Me” and Matchmaker, Matchmaker” have been part of the American songbook -- and the fact that I could just list all of those without having to consult a program proves it.”

Lets face it every high school has done Fiddler and there have been three previous revivals in 1981, 1990, and as recently as 2004. So why do another revival now. What about this one makes is so special that people should pay $157 a ticket to see it.

The answer is one word: the choreography. Hofesh Shechter is a genius. Somehow he has remained true to the show’s original choreography by Jerome Robbins, but has made it totally fresh and exciting. The dances take on a life of their own and bring
depth and passion to the story.

“Tradition,” arguably one of the best opening numbers for a musical ever, is even more exciting and celebratory. The choreography is worth the price of the ticket. The rest of the production, directed by Bartlett Sher, is not as rewarding. Danny Burstein is a respectable Tevye, though he seems much happier than I expect. Jessica Hecht is more downtrodden and reflects the difficulty of her life.

Others like Samantha Massell Hodel and  Alix Korey Yente, whose comic delivery is off,  seem miscast. A number of vocals are weak and don’t blend well and some miss cues to begin songs. Music Direction is by Ted Sperling.

Sher has people moving around on stage with no apparent focus, He also has elected to introduce a confusing, modern prologue and epilogue to the story. There also is a floating fiddler. Scenic Designer Michael Yeargan suspends some rooftops too. These elements seem out of place.

It’s always lovely to hear the score. It’s a real treat to watch this choreography. But somehow, I won’t be surprised if I enjoy the next traditional production I see a local high school just a bit more.

Fiddler floats at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, NYC through Sept. 4. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm;  Wedesday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $35-$157: 800 432-7250;

Check out some of the neat choreography here:

Full credits:
Music by Jerry Bock; Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; Book by Joseph Stein, based on the Sholom Aleicheim stories; Direction by Bartlett Sher; Choreography by Hofesh Shechter, Scenic Design by Michael Yeargan, Costume Design by Catherine Zuber, Lighting Design by Donald Holder, Music Direction by Ted Sperling

Danny Burstein…. Tevye

Jessica Hecht…. Golde

Jenny Rose Baker…. Shprintze

Michael Bernardi…. Mordcha

Adam Danheisser…. Lazar Wolf

Adam Kantor…. Motel

Karl Kenzler…. Constable

Alix Korey…. Yente

Samantha Massell…. Hodel

Melanie Moore…. Chava

Ben Rappaport…. Perchik

Nick Rehberger…. Fyedka

Alexandra Silber…. Tzeitel

Jessica Vosk Fruma Sarah

Aaron Young…. Sasha

Jennifer Zetlan…. Shaindel

Hayley Feinstein…. Bielke

Mitch Greenberg…. Yussel/Baker

Adam Grupper…. Rabbi

Lori Wilner…. Grandma Tzeitel

George Psomas…. Avram

Julie Benko, Eric Bourne, Stephen Carrasco, Eric Chambliss, Jacob Guzman, Jesse Kovarsky, Reed Luplau, Brandt Martinez, Sarah Parker, Marla Phelan, Tess Primack, Silvia Vrskova, Jonathan Royse Windham…. Villagers

-- no content notes. If you haven't taken your kids to Fiddler yet, do. It's a story of family, faith and tradition.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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