Theater is an institution steeped in tradition. Some might even call it superstition. Actors wish each other luck with the salutation “break a leg,” it's considered bad luck to utter the title character's name in Shakespeare's “Macbeth,” and whistling on stage is strongly discouraged.
Tradition also informs “Fiddler on the Roof,” an intriguing tale about life in a poor Russian village. Rules about their religious beliefs, how they dress and customs that are to be observed at wedding ceremonies govern their lives.
“Fiddler” brought the golden age of musical theater to a close, in much the same way that “Oklahoma!” launched it. It seems fitting then that “Fiddler” has returned to the state whose namesake began that era.
With a production that has been on the road for two years, one could understand, but not forgive, a cast that had lost much of its luster. The rigors of touring combined with an eight-shows-a-week schedule can take a toll on even the most energetic cast.
Happily, this Troika production has a palpable vitality and solid production values. Moreover, it offers patrons a chance to revisit a musical that offers a near perfect blend of poignancy, humor and great storytelling.
One's primary memory of “Fiddler on the Roof” is likely to be its score. “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset” have imprinted themselves on our collective consciousness for good reason. They're tuneful, they define character and they advance the plot — everything a good theater song should do.
What most people forget though is just how funny “Fiddler” is. And this accomplished cast wrings every bit of humor out of Joseph Stein's marvelous book. Most theater enthusiasts can predict most of the show's punch lines but they still elicit the desired response.
In much the same way that peasant life during early 20th century Russia had its hierarchy, this production reflects that in its casting. The men tend to make a stronger impression than the women.
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