Fiddler on the Roof at fifty continues to speak to us through its central core of endearing humanity and its depiction of unfathomable inhumanity. It is a tale of tempering tradition to survive.
On one level it reflects today’s headline news, which tells how the whims of a majority determines the fate of a minority group. On another it reminds of our own history, when 200 years ago as a new state we did to the Miami, Potawatomi, Wea, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Delawares what Russia did to the Jews, forcibly moving a people off their ancestral land.
Yet, Fiddler speaks beyond the political to the intimately personal. It represents the family or community unit in the midst of vastly changing times. We are touched deeply by the unconditional love of a father for his five daughters, by his relationship with his wife, and by the testing of his faith. We are integrated into the life of villagers eking out a living, squabbling and forgiving. We hurt as they do under the wrenching edict to leave, to become strangers in a strange new land. We wonder, can we make new traditions based on the values of the old?
Tevye brims with the wisdom of a simple man who is on speaking terms with G-d. Douglas Stark has been Tevye a half dozen times. He continues to grow into the role as he imbues Tevye with loving-kindness dancing around a bit of bravado. Every conciliation and reconciliation with the inevitable tears our heart apart as it does his. That closing moment of Act One is classic; once witnessed it haunts you for the rest of your life. Alone in the spotlight, in the eye of G-d, Tevye must survive for the sake of his family, his neighbors, his faith.
The entire cast reaches Stark’s level of excellence. Lynne Perkins bustles her way into your funny bone and beyond into your gut. She is the Mamma, holding up her end of the bargain with the Pappa. You’ll enjoy all around fine dancing, singing, acting overseen by director Eddie Curry, musical director Terry Woods and Kenny Shepard who reproduced Jerome Robbins’ original choreography. Michael Layton’s scenic design and Jill Kelly’s costumes wear well since their first appearance in 1981. Fiddler has been staged at Beef & Boards under Stark’s ownership in 1985, 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004.