March 6, 2016

Fiddler on the Roof Revival: What’s Changed?

Dina Doctoroff ‘18


In 1964 audiences lined up to see “Fiddler on the Roof,” a then-new Broadway show about about a Jewish family living in the fictional shtetl of Anatevka in Imperial Russia. As well as being the 16th longest-running show in Broadway history, the music from the show became well-known and performances sprung up in community theaters across the country.
There have been four revivals of “Fiddler on the Roof,” as well as a highly-successful film in 1971. Now, “Fiddler” is back on Broadway to the delight of fans everywhere.
But how close to the movie is this new revival? Is it bringing something new?
Most critics agreed that the third revival, in 2004, was a complete disaster. News source amNew York says that the joyfulness and Jewishness was sucked out of this production. This, however, is not a problem in the new production. The new revival is full of catchy lyrics, fun ensemble numbers and does not take away the Jewish aspect of the story.
The new show is very successful in keeping the Jewish traditions of the movie alive and even adds to them. The show opens with the actor who plays Tevye dressed in modern clothing. There is a sign looming above him that says “Anatevka,” but the town itself isn’t there. The man seems to be a descendant of Tevye, or another townsperson, who is attempting to retrace his ancestry. The actor then unzips his jacket and his Tevye costume is revealed. The people of Anatevka join him on stage and perform the song “Tradition” with him.
This additional plot point, which merges two different generations together, adds to the Jewish aspect of the musical. It shows that we, as Jewish people, have faced many struggles, but we still remain. The scene implies that the descendants of Anatevka lasted through the many struggles that Jewish people in Russia faced throughout the years, such as pogroms and the Holocaust.
In this scene, the man from modern times is not wearing a Kippah, Tzitzit, or any form of Jewish attire. This minor detail shows that, although we respect the past, we need to accept that things cannot always stay the same and progress needs to happen. It shows that Jewish people can be found in many different forms and can observe Judaism differently.
Although the Jewish themes are prevalent, the show also manages to entertain the younger audiences by modernizing certain scenes. For example, Tzeitel and Motel sneak away to passionately kiss at their wedding. Also, the Fiddler himself flies above the stage, delighting young children in the crowd.
The choreography is very entertaining as well, with a different dance style for the mothers, father, sons and daughters in the show. Hofesh Schecter, an Israeli modern dancer, choreographed this revival and makes sure to set her version apart from past incarnations while still preserving audience favorites.
Schecter, for instance, keeps the traditions of the old choreographers of both the movie and the play when creating the bottle dance for Tzeitel and Motel’s wedding. In this dance, the men in the wedding twirl, sway and perform other moves while keeping a wine bottle steady on their heads. This dance is a staple of the movie and keeping it in this revival was definitely a smart move.
The new revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” does not differ as extremely from the movie, or from previous revivals, as one might expect. It keeps the main plot points and dances, the actors portray the characters similarly to the ones in the movie and the Jewish theme also remains.

The few differences between the movie and Broadway show are only prevalent in the new opening scene and the few more modern scenes and dance choices. This revival does an incredible job of keeping the roots of the movie, while still changing and progressing.

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