“Fiddler” on tour

Three months ago I bought tickets to last night’s performance of the national touring show of the 2015 revival of Fiddler on the Roof. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the show concludes its run at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis this afternoon and evening. The tickets were a Mother’s Day gift to my wife. I went down to the box office to select the seats, but the pickings were already slim. The show was nearly sold out.

Seeing the show last night brought back warm memories. My father took me along with him on a business trip to Chicago in early 1967. While there we discovered that Fiddler was on its first national tour (with Luther Adler as Tevye) and on its Chicago run. My dad had seen the show on Broadway and wanted me to see it. It was important to him that I see it. As far as he was concerned, this was our family’s story. Walking over to the theater, we found there was one ticket left. That is the first time I saw Fiddler.

Despite its particularistic appearance, there is a synthetic American quality to the show. Mark Steyn aptly observes in Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then & Now: “As a theme, tradition is the invention of the stage version [of Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye stories], cooked up by librettist Joseph Stein, musicalized by composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, and magnificently staged by Robbins to bind the short stories together into a coherent whole.”

Times and mores have changed since 1964, but Fiddler somehow abides. The show continues to touch audiences of all kinds around the world. I don’t know how — Alisa Solomon offers answers in Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof; a documentary of the same name will offer answers of its own when it opens later this month — yet there is no question that it did so in the ’60s and does so now. Most striking to me last night was the intensity of the reaction of a diverse audience to the (excellent) production.

It turns out that Minneapolis is only the first stop of the Fiddler revival’s touring company. The Star Tribune’s Rohan Preston reviewed the show last week here. The tour continues in cities around the United States through May 2020. Playbill has the dates and towns here. Below is a 46-second video montage of the production.