Family Fun: “Fiddler
on the Roof” & Tots’ “Cookin’” Show
a Broadway show can be a summer family tradition. Turning
a tradition upside down, David Leveaux’s Fiddler
on the Roof creates a softer, milder Tevye to
replace the usual rambunctious characterization, and a new
experience. Still it is delightful family entertainment.
Alfred Molina’s Tevye is a modest guy, trying
to fend off the Czar and care for his family in a changing
world. His low-keyed performance has caused controversy. The
role was originally created for Zero Mostel, an exuberant actor,
handpicked by Jerome Robbins, the original director and choreographer.
Robbins’ fabulous choreography has been retained. It’s
almost worth the price of admission to see the show’s
spectacular bottle dance.
Here intact is Sholom
story of the struggle to maintain tradition amid swirling change.
Tom Pye’s severe set design emphasizes the spare existence
of the shtetl dwellers, with scrims that reveal bare trees
and fallen leaves. Especially awesome is the dream sequence,
resembling a Chagall painting.
This production eases
up on the stereotyped inflections, but the jokes still come
through. For instance, in the mix-up during the confused
negotiations for his daughter Tzeitel’s
hand, Tevye thinks they are talking about cow: “Today,
you want one! Tomorrow you may want two!” It gets a big
With the exception of
Randy Graff, who is a tad bland as Hodel, Tevye’s wife, the rest of the cast is
just fine. It’s John Cariani’s timid tailor who
garners all the laughs and gets much deserved applause. All
the daughters are good, but especially fine are Chava (Tricia
Paoluccio) and Fyedka (David Ayers), as young people in love
across religious abyss. Also tops is Robert Petkoff’s
feisty revolutionary. The ending depicting the departure from
the shtetl is extremely moving.
Molina is fine, singing
the familiar “If
I Were a Rich Man,” more wistfully than other stars before
him. His performance could be a little tougher, so it would
contrast his forcefulness in standing up to the Czar’s
world, with his softness in caving in to his daughters’ wishes.
Still it works, as does this classic musical. (Minskoff Theater,
For those too young
for Broadway, there’s Cookin’, featuring four enormously talented nonverbal chefs,
racing the clock to prepare a Korean wedding banquet. Kids
at my show laughed as the actors used all kinds of kitchen
implements as musical instruments and engaged in outrageous
clowning. (Minetta Lane Theater, 212-307-4100)#