Watching the most recent musical at the Dr. Phillips Center, “Fiddler on the Roof,” was a very conflicting experience. On one hand, it was an exceptional performance with a stellar cast, but on a deeper level it was haunting because of its connections to historical events in Russia and the Ukraine. Good art, by its very nature, should make one think and strike emotional chords within the soul. “Fiddler” certainly did that.
Yehezkel Lazarov was Tevye in every way. His comic timing was pure perfection. His biography lists his amazing vocal and acting talents and audiences will be privileged to have witnessed them. The opening number, “Tradition,” gave me goosebumps and the chills continued throughout, especially during the wedding scene. The familiar songs were beautifully performed by Tevye’s wife, three eldest daughters and their chosen mates. Jerome Robbins’ timeless choreography contrasted the styles of the Jewish culture living among the Russian Cossacks of the late 19th century. Robbins choreographed for “West Side Story” and “The King and I” with the same cultural awareness. The bar scene and Tzeitel wedding showed off the abilities of the corps of male dancers. One could not help but be impressed with so many men dancing while balancing wine bottles on their heads.
The story is about cultural clashes that tear families apart. Tevye’s personal story is about holding onto traditional beliefs and values as the world changes around him. In anyone’s lifetime, choices have to be made at an individual level. May all art cause us to find a better way to respect other cultures and learn to live together in love.
“Fiddler on the Roof” runs at the Dr. Phillips Center through March 10. Visit their website for ticket information.