Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Off-Broadway Review: Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish) TOP PICK

The cast of Fiddler in Yiddish. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish)
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Book by Joseph Stein, based on stories by Sholem Aleichem
Yiddish translation by Shraga Friedman
Musical Staging and new Choreography by Staś Kmieć
Musical Direction by Zalmen Mlotek
Stage 42

By Lauren Yarger
A Yiddish translation of the much-loved musical telling the struggles of Tevye the milkman (a marvelous Steven Skybell) and his family in Tsarist Russia has moved to a new home at Off-Broadway's Stage and it probably is the best production of the musical you ever will see.

Fiddler, you may ask? How can it be that different from the other 100 versions we have seen and which have been presented on thousands of stages since the original production, with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, took Broadway by storm in 1964? I'll tell you.  It only takes a few moments to recognize it as the quintessential version of this musical you ever will experience. It's almost perfect in every way and feels like it's the version of this classic we have been waiting to see-- much like David Cromer's revival of Our Town became the standard against which any other productions now will be measured.

Yiddish, you may ask? Yes, this musical, expertly directed  by Joel Grey, is presented in Yiddish, with English and Russian supertitles projected on Beowulf Boritt's parchment backdrop. Most of us know the story pretty much by heart: Tevya struggles to uphold the traditions that have kept survival an option for his family and their little village of Anatevka.  And most of us can sing the familiar tunes like "Matchmaker," "Sunrise Sunset," "Do You Love Me?," "and "If I Were a Rich Man" by heart, so the translations of Shraga Friedman's adaptation aren't needed to follow the story as much as to provide reference. It's also fun to observe at times how details  vary from the traditional version: the dispute in tradition is over whether a she-goat or a he-goat had been delivered, not a horse or mule, for example. It's fascinating -- and still one of the best opening numbers of a Broadway musical ever staged. Staś Kmieć, who provides musical staging and new choreography, remains faithful to Jerome Robbins's original and iconic choreography.

Beowulf's set is minimal, yet descriptive in that the parchment panels forming the backdrop to daily life bear the word "Torah." The biggest set change occurs when the parchment is torn -- a visual image of a way of life being torn apart as Russian officials begin targeting Jews for deportation. This musical is personal and we all feel the wound.

For more, listen to the review here.

For more information, click here.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- No content notes. Do your self a favor and see this one. It's as near-perfect a Fiddler as you'll see. I would go back again and I don't say that about every show.

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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 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 http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com 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.

Copyright

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

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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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