Director Bartlett Sher's Drama Desk Award-winning 2015 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, currently on a restarted national tour that was interrupted by the pandemic, is arriving in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Fiddler on the Roof sits in a class of Broadway musicals from the 1960s that were simultaneously sumptuous, broad, earnest, comedic, and set in a historic period. Based on turn-of-the-20th-century stories by Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem, the musical tells the story of Tevye, a milkman in a Russian shtetl around 1905, and his wife and three daughters, who are coming up on marrying age.
While the show was criticized by some Jewish writers — Philip Roth famously called it "shtetl kitsch" — for sugar-coating a brutal period in Jewish history, the show nonetheless has hints of the darkness that looms outside the shtetl of Anatevka, even if nothing too tragic occurs. (The family does face a coming pogrom which, by the shows end, sees them heading for America.)
Embraced widely by American Jews and pop culture in general since it first debuted on Broadway in 1964 (with Bea Arthur in the role of Yente), Fiddler has seen multiple revivals over the years, the most recent having been performed entirely in Yiddish in New York City in 2019. The score, by composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, is much beloved among musical theater mavens as well.
Bartlett Sher, who was won Tony Awards and nominations in recent years for his lavish and faithful (if more culturally sensitive) revivals of classics like South Pacific, The King and I, and My Fair Lady, took on this revival in 2015, and the production played on Broadway for over a year. This national tour was originally launched in late 2018, got interrupted by the pandemic, and then was rebooted this year — with one-week-only stops in an array of cities.
The cast on tour includes Israeli-born actor Jonathan Hashmonay, a Penn State Musical Theatre Program grad, in the role of Tevye; and Maite Uzal as Golde.
The New York Times praised this production — with costumes by Catherine Zuber (who also did the costumes for the more recent Moulin Rouge!) and a set by Michael Yeargan with Chagall-esque elements — as "superb" saying it "honors the show’s ebullience of spirit."
The SF run is only from Wednesday, March 22, to Sunday, March 26, and you can find tickets here.
Top image: Yardén Barr (Chava) and Randa Meierhenry (Tzeitel) and GraceAnn Kontak (Hodel) in the North American Tour of 'Fiddler on the Roof.' Photo by Joan Marcus