A Favorite Classic Returns with PPAC’s Fiddler

By Kimberly Rau

The Providence Performing Arts Center is hosting the non-equity national tour of Fiddler on the Roof, which boasts new staging and choreography, this week. For a show that premiered in the 60s that is set in rural Russia right around when the last century started, it’s aged surprisingly well, and fans of the musical will enjoy the new updates.

For the uninitiated, Tevye is a milkman in Anatevka, a small Russian village that has been mostly left alone by the military and police. He has five daughters, the oldest three just reaching (arguable) marriageable age, an outspoken wife, and a good standing in the village. Quick witted and intelligent, Tevye often breaks out of his conversations for an aside with God, demanding to know why he wasn’t born rich or why his daughters feel the need to get married for love instead of lock-stepping with tradition and using the local matchmaker. The play is part snapshot of quaint village life, partially one man’s struggle with faith and family, and part social commentary, as the encroaching government makes life more and more unpleasant for the Jewish residents of Anatevka.

The show is almost three hours long, and the second act is written in a way that drags things out quite a bit, but the three things that make it shine are the choreography, the set, and the actors.  It’s a bare-bones set that sets the scene beautifully while still allowing lots of room for the large cast to get around. The new choreography feels fresh and engaging, and the cast is strong.

Carrying the show falls primarily on Tevye’s shoulders, and Yehezkel Lazarov is more than strong enough for the role. With a powerful voice and stage presence, Lazarov makes even the more quiet moments of the show engaging. The repetitive “If I Were a Rich Man” is funny and interesting, even after the seventh or eighth “daidle deedle daidle;” the somber “Chavaleh” is beautiful. But it’s not a one-man show by any stretch, and Maite Uzal as Tevye’s wife Golde complements Lazarov wonderfully. The ensemble is tight, with nary a note or step out of place the entire performance, and all five sisters have a stage chemistry that easily sells the idea that they grew up together.

Overall, this is a beautiful production of a classic show that everyone should see at least once. If you’re already a fan, then you’ll enjoy the comfort of a favorite story that’s only made better by Bartlett Sher’s direction, Hofesh Shechter’s choreography and Michael Yeargan’s beautiful set design.

Fiddler on the Roof runs through Feb. 16 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets may be obtained at the box office, online at ppacri.org or by calling 401-421-2787.