By Connie Bollinger
The Fabulous Fox Theatre’s lush, lively production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is stunning — a celebration of the human condition wrapped in song, with some of the most incredible dancing ever.
Now 55 years old, the musical tells the evergreen story of Tevye the Dairyman and his family as they struggle to eek out a living in 1905 Imperial Russia.
Director Bartlett Sher, who specializes in fresh looks at beloved classics, “The King and I” and “South Pacific” among them, has opened a window into the traditions and people of the sleepy little town of Anatevka, where the rumors of revolution are already growing.
Tevye is played with love by Israeli actor, Yehezkel Lazarov. He has a beautifully rich, full baritone voice that’s immediately warm and appealing in the opening number, “Tradition.”
It’s a revealing reiteration of the idea of the”proper” roles of men and women, boys and girls. The dance is spectacular.
Based on Sholem Aleichem’s tales, “Fiddler on the Roof” won the Pulitzer Prize with its book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.
The original production won ten Tony Awards, including a special Tony for becoming the longest-running Broadway musical of all time.
Legendary Jerome Robbins choreographed the original, and acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter injected oomph — injection of oomph — emphatic stomping, moving and clapping in perfect unison in the Tony-nominated Broadway revival that this national tour represents.
One thing that never grows old — Tevye’s one-sided conversations with God that are touching and funny, especially when Tevye is pulling the delivery wagon because his horse is lame….again. Lazarov delivers as promised in “If I Were a Rich Man.”
Maite Uzel plays his sharp-tongued wife, Golde. She’s impatient and overworked, but the love she has for her five daughters and Tevye shows clearly through the bluster.
Their duet, “Do You Love Me?” is touching and sweet, one of the show’s best numbers.
Another standout is Mel Weyn as the eldest daughter, Tzeitel. She is in love with Motel the tailor, a poor man who is saving up to purchase a used sewing machine so he can begin his own business as a tailor. Jesse Weil charms with “Miracle of Miracles.”
Their wedding prompts the poignant “Sunrise, Sunset” as the ceremony is performed — always tugging the heartstrings.
If there’s a weak performance in the play I didn’t find it; the actors, singers and dancers in the cast were about as good as it gets.
Michael Yeargan’s sets were elegant in their simplicity. Catherine Zuber’s costumes were wonderful, especially in the Bottle Dance.
I especially enjoyed the vivacious Dream Sequence, and it’s swirling madcap elements.
Sher’s team was at the top of their game revitalizing “Fiddler.” With music direction from Ted Sperling, the orchestra performed beautifully, and the tour lighting by Donald Holder was well done. Scott Lehrer and Alexander Neumann brought us crystal clear sound so that we caught every word.
But the night belonged to the choreography, aided by Chris Evans of the Hofesh Schechter Company. The Bottle Dance, the Russian dancers at the wedding and the opening “Tradition” scene. It was incredible, well-suited for a new generation.
Get yourselves over to the Fox, people, and see this buoyant show. You might have seen it before, but you have never seen it quite this way.
The Fabulous Fox Theatre presents the St. Louis engagement of the Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” from Jan. 29 to Feb. 10. Tickets are available at MetroTix.com, by calling 314-534-1111 or in person at the Fabulous Fox Box Office.
Show times are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Saturday afternoons at 2 p.m., Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. There will also be a 6:30 p.m. evening performance on Sunday, Feb. 3 and a matinee performance on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 1 p.m.
For more information, visit www.fabulousfox.com