By Leonard Feigenblatt ~The National Theatre Folksbiene was founded in 1915, and is recognized as the longest continuously producing Yiddish theatre company in the world. They are currently presenting Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, which began at the Edmond J. Safra Hall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Place in July 2018, where it was extended several times, due to ticket demand, and closed on December 30, 2018. It reopened at Stage 42, in midtown on February 2019. It is the first hit production to play Stage 42, which despite being a beautiful theatre, located just a few doors down from Playwrights Horizon, on 42nd Street, has never had a hit production.
Based on a series of short stories written by Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, “Fiddler on the Roof” is the classic musical that tells the story of the Jews of a small shtetl (village) of Anatevka in Russia. The story focuses on Tevye, a poor dairyman, and his wife Golde, who have five daughters. He is continually battling between the old traditions of the past and new and modern ideas.
This production has been lovingly directed by Tony and Academy Award Winner Joel Grey and performed in Yiddish, and is wonderfully translated into Yiddish by Shraya Friedman, adding a new dimension to an already familiar musical.
Don’t speak or understand Yiddish? You needn’t worry; the musical has surtitles in English and Russian. This has such an authentic feel because Tevye and his fellow Jews of Anatevka would have spoken Yiddish among themselves. The one inauthenticity is that the Russians speak Yiddish. This has an easy fix, as the surtitles are in both English and Russian.
The production is sparingly, but beautifully designed and acted by an entire cast that had to learn their parts in Yiddish. They all, without exception, speak as if Yiddish was their native language. Fiddler was nominated for several awards and won the 2019 Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk Award and off Broadway Alliance Award for Best Musical Revival. It is well worth another visit to Fiddler on the Roof to see this current production.
Fiddler on the Roof is currently playing through January 5, 2020 at, Stage 42, 422 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues), New York, NY 10036
- “Let ’em Eat Cake,” by George and Ira Gershwin and book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, starring Tony Award nominees Bryce Pinkham and Christopher Fitzgerald, and Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper. Directed and conducted by Ted Sperling. Thursday Nov. 21 at Carnegie Hall.
- “Iron & Coal,” a chamber opera by Jeremy Schonfeld. “Friday and Saturday Jan. 10 and 11, 2020 at the Gerald Lynch Theatre at John Jay College.
- “Carmen,” the opera in English by Georges Bizet, English language translation by Sheldon Harnick, and conducted by Ted Sperling. April 2, 2020 at the Rose Theatre.
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