On November 27th, I had the ability to attend my first-ever Broadway production. I saw the 3:00 Sunday matinee of Fiddler on the Roof directed by Bartlett Sher at the Broadway theater on the corner of 7th and 53rd. Fiddler on the Roof tells the life-affirming story of Tevye, a poor milkman whose love, pride and faith help him face the oppression of turn-of-the century czarist Russia. The show also follows the story of the upbringings of his daughters, with the help of wife Golde, focusing mainly on Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava. His youngest daughters Shprintze and Bielke only appear for short amounts of time in the show. Overall, the show is awe-inspiring. The perfectly synchronized choreography and entrancing vocal abilities of cast members like Danny Burstein (Tevye) and Jessica Hecht (Golde).
The show opens with the classic introduction of the “fiddler on the roof” which represents the uncertainty and borderline generosity of living as a poor Jew living in Europe during the World War II era. During Tevye’s introduction of the fiddler, a 2D structure, representing Tevye’s house, is flown in with illuminated windows. The fiddler is flown in as well, balancing cautiously on the roof of the house. It was interesting to see how the lights blended on the cyc to create effects like sunsets and different times of day. The designer used gobos to create cloud and textured effects. This eliminated the need for extravagant backdrops and set pieces as the lighting did most of the work. As the show continued, large pieces of scenery like houses (when outside) and walls (when inside) were flown onto the stage, while smaller pieces like trees, tables, and more were carried in by the actors.
The most astounding part of the show was from the number “Anatevka” to the very end of the show, “The Leave-Taking.” The lighting expertly mimicked the transitions from day to night and form a tone of certainty and home to darkness and depression. As actors processed around the stage in a circle, slowly more actors entered the circle with pieces of furniture and belongings, symbolizing their exile from Russia. The technical aspects of this section of the show enhanced the rather simple staging and set a solemn tone all throughout the house.
Another remarkable section of the show included “Tevye’s Dream.” Tevye tells Golde that her grandmother came to him in a dream stating that Tzeitel must marry Motel the tailor and not Lazar-Wolf the butcher whom was married before. As the dream progresses, actors dressed in all white and corpse-esque makeup surround Tevye and repeat the message. At the end of the dream, Lazar-Wolf’s deceased wife Fruma-Sarah warns Tevye of the curse that would occur if Tzeitel were to marry Lazar-Wolf. Fruma-Sarah entered on stilts, towering above the other actors. She was donned in a long white tattered dress and had long, demon-like fingernails. The flashing lights, and eerie music created a ghastly feel throughout the entire theater which transported audience members, even those sitting in the back of the theater, into the nightmarish scene.
After the show, I was lucky enough to see into one of the backstage wings where I saw how the lights on booms were flown in before the show and out afterwards. I also was able to get a sneak peak at the small set of stairs upstage in between the upstage cyc and the stage. Actors used this area for entrances in scenes such at the “Sabbath Prayer,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” and “The Wedding Procession.” It was incredible to see the mere size of the stage as well as as small percentage of the multitudinous amount of lights hung in the theater.Fiddler on the Roof is an outstanding piece of theatrical work that struck awe and emotion in every single audience member. The technical aspects of the show enhanced the already wonderful choreography, staging, acting, and music. It was truly amazing show to see, and I am truly blessed to have been able to experience it as my first Broadway show.