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Concert Reviews:
"Fiddler" maintains tradition of excellence at the Fisher Theatre
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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"Fiddler on the Roof" is about as bulletproof as it gets when it comes to stage musicals.



The show about beleaguered dairyman Tevye and the ill-fasted Russian village of Anatevka is nothing less than a classic, an old school epic whose Great American Songbook-worthy tunes and spirited choreography still dazzle 46 years after its debut at Detroit's Fisher Theatre -- where it's returned this week for shows through Sunday, March 15. And its themes about bigotry, xenophobia and the timeless struggle between tradition and new world orders ring as true in 2020 as they have at any point during the course of "Fiddler's" lengthy run.



You have to do a lot, in other words, to take "Fiddler" down a peg, and the touring production at the Fisher ably upholds the majesty and humor-laced gravitas of its legacy -- or, if you prefer, tradition.



A solid cast and sleek, slightly modernized staging -- a giant, perhaps symbolic wall dominates the stage here -- gives this "Fiddler" a clean, crisp look. But most importantly the cast nails the all of the musicalís Big Moments, from the opening "Tradition" to the nightmarish look of "Tevye's Dream" and the exuberant dance showcases "To Life" and "The Wedding." Sisters Tzeitel (Kelly Gabrielle Murphy), Hodel (Ruthy Froch) and Chava (Noa Luz Barenblat) are gloriously harmonic on "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," while "Sabbath Prayer," "Sunrise, Sunset" and "Far From the Home I Love" twist the heartstrings just as they're supposed to.



It's also refreshing to be immersed in a show that's more traditional musical than pop opera, where the narrative is as important as the music and entire scenes go by without anyone breaking into song -- and are all the more impactful for that. They still make 'em like this, occasionally, but "Fiddler" is a reminder, albeit a long one, of how rich a well-told story can be on the stage.



Any version of "Fiddler" largely lives and dies by its Tevye, of course, and Israeli native Yehezkel Lazarov delivers. Though more successful with the comedic aspect of the role, Lazarov's Tevye is authentic and fully fleshed, a man learning how far he can bend and what the benefits of a little flexibility and enlightenment can be. He drives the show and lights up the stage with his elastic face and expressive voice -- "If I Were a Rich Man" is another highlight -- and Lazarov's frequent "chats" with God strike the right balance in conveying Tevye's joys and struggles.



This "Fiddler's" couple of fresh touches, meanwhile, are welcome additions. It's framed by Tevye, in glasses and a modern, LL Bean-style jacket, reading a book (it's based on the stories of Russian author and playwright Sholem Aleichem) at the start and finish. The actual Fiddler character (Ari Arian Molaei) is subtly deployed at all the right points to underscore the precariousness of the villagers' lives, and their final exodus, circling around the stage with their worldly belongings, is a heartbreaking reminder that despite its energy and celebration, "Fiddler" is a tragedy that still reflects current world events.



"Fiddler on the Roof" runs through Sunday, March 15 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. $45 and up. 313-872-1000 or broadwayindetroit.com.

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

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