“Fiddler on the Roof” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ March 31, 2011


ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

If you are looking for a tired and true but amazingly bland “Fiddler on the Roof,” see the touring version now at ASU Gammage through April 3. It re-creates Jerome Robbins’ original 1964 staging and star John Preece who has played Tevye over 1,500 times brings life and vigor to this otherwise disappointing production. The dreadful supporting cast plays characters with little verve and some singing is painful. Tacky sets are shifted awkwardly by the cast in a pushing, pulling, and shoving extravaganza. There’s been no attempt to re-create Boris Aronson’s swirling original designs that so enhanced Robbins masterful circularly inspired staging. Sammy Dallas Bayes’ directorial duplication looks awkward because of the uncooperative sets and the once innovative staging now has been frequently duplicated.

The Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick score remains a classic and the heavily microphoned orchestra gives hits like “If I Were A Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and the others, the familiar sound. Joseph Stein’s book, based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories, is set in Tsarist Russia in the ramshackle Jewish village of Anatevka during 1905. It relates a touching story of families facing religious discrimination as they confront a changing world where traditions no longer dominate. Tevye and Golde’s three eligible daughters abandon tradition in marrying and, although Tevye struggles with the changes, he accepts them.

But in the context of newer musical theater classics, the three hour show runs long with redundant and repetitious scenes. It’s time to take a new look at “Fiddler” as a recent Broadway revival did. Alas, this production uses the original version proudly as it plods along doing it the way it’s always been done.

Preserving a classic isn’t bad but not with such a mediocre supporting cast. Only Preece’s Tevye has the energy this production desperately needs. Nancy Evans’ Golde uses every cliché for this role and she can’t sing. Birdie Newman Katz’s Yente, The Matchmaker, should be cute and endearing but Katz just walks through it shrewishly. Tevye’s three daughters are well portrayed and sung but their suitors aren’t appealing. Other roles are given no defining characterizations making this a boringly bland Anatevka.

Hit and miss lighting distracts and the overly loud sound system was initially plagued opening night by an annoying background hum that made it sound like it was raining inside the theater.

If you’ve never seen the original “Fiddler on the Roof,” this isn’t a really good duplication but it’s still “Fiddler on the Roof” so it’s not all bad. It continues through April 3. For tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-3434 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C