photo by Joan Marcus
The 2018-2019 Broadway season at the Kimmel Center is filled with must-see classic musicals. Shows like Cats and RENT have helped define what Broadway is and what it can be, paving the way for the groundbreaking musicals you see on the stage today. The 1965 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, Fiddler on the Roof, is a part of this season’s series and it should be at the top of the list for any fan of the stage.
Fiddler is the first musical in history to surpass 3,000 performances. To date, it’s the 16th longest running show in Broadway history. That may not seem like a significant number, but given the amount of musicals that come and go, those that close quickly after their debut, and the uniqueness of each show’s plot and music, Fiddler‘s ranking is very impressive.
The musical, based on the book Tevye and His Daughters, focuses on Tevye himself and his struggle to maintain Jewish traditions while preparing to marry off his five daughters. The daughters, being great examples for how and why women need to speak for themselves and stand up for what they are passionate about, want to marry for love. Tevye and his wife are against this, of course, as they are a poor family that dreams of their daughters one day having rich lives. New people come to their village and throw a wrench in Tevye’s dreams; some good and some bad.
Broadway fans will recognize popular tunes like “If I Were a Rich Man”, “Sunrise Sunset”, and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” as Tevye struggles in his role of raising his five daughters while working hard to provide for his family (all parents, of any generation, can relate to this).
Fiddler on the Roof is quite funny overall, with Tevye cracking jokes and sarcastically laughing his way through life and his misfortunes. Still, the show is heartbreaking as the family and their neighbors must eventually leave their beloved village, scattering to other parts of the world where relatives live and they can begin new lives. While Fiddler is very entertaining, it’s also very educating. People like Tevye and his family had to leave their homes in the early 1900s due to the Pale of Settlement- portions of Russia where Jewish residency was forbidden (I’m sure Wikipedia can explain it better than I can). This all plays out toward the end of the show and the audience is left to think hard about what they would do in a similar situation. Fiddler encourages us to accept our family members as they are, analyze the traditions of our ancestors, and perhaps allow our children a bit more freedom in becoming who they are meant to be.
Acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter does a fantastic job with this show, making the characters seem so at ease with their steps. The cast is also top-notch. Philadelphia is only the second stop on their tour, yet everything is so flawless and flows so well, you would think this was their final stop.
Last night, we were treated to a special performance by the Mummers’ Quaker City String Band as they launched a mini parade from the Kimmel Center to the Academy of Music, playing numbers from Fiddler (RowHome Magazine is honoring one of the band’s longtime captains at our annual Blue Sapphire Awards next week).
The national touring production of Fiddler on the Roof is here in Philly for the first time in 30 years! See it at the Academy of Music now until October 28th. Take in a performance if you can. Don’t wait around another few decades!