Fiddler On The Roof

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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It seems that, at least for me, procrastination can be a good thing. I waited and waited and waited and never did my viewer's choice production. I'm glad I waited. Fiddler on the Roof was the single best play I've ever seen. And my seat, for having bought my ticket that night, was phenomenal. I was in the eighth row from the front, on the left side, three seats in. I could see everything! I was simply amazed.

Okay, first I must get everything bad out of the way. One bad thing I noticed was that I could see the stagehands occasionally. I suppose it was how my seat was oriented, but that took me out of my suspended disbelief every now and again. Another thing was that the man behind me knew the play, and he would quote the lines once and a while to impress the lady next to him.

However, if only two things bother me during a play, then I truly enjoyed myself.

Wow, just wow. I was captivated from the very first song, "Tradition." In general, the singing voices were great with few exceptions. "Now I Have Everything" was probably the best done, but "If I Were a Rich Man" was right up there as well. Also, I've never seen a live play with dancing, and I was impressed. The bottle dancers were extraordinary! It was great eye candy all through the play, plus it added a nice touch to the warmth that I suppose the audience felt. I was so entranced at some points I forgot to applaud, and it was the rest of the audience's applauding that brought me out of magic of the songs.

The play started with only two substitutions to the cast. I was pleased to see most of the cast in their preferred characters. Some of my favorites were Tevye (of course); Mendel, the Rabbi's son; and Hodel. Hodel I liked specifically because she was very beautiful as well as a good actress. Tevye seemed a bit mechanical at first, but it faded quickly. When I was discussing this with a friend who accompanied me, we decided that the actor, Theodore Bikel, probably used Stanislovsky's acting method. This would account for the quick fade of mechanics. Mendel I liked because of his energy. He added a great comic touch to the play.

I love a good comic edge in anything. Tevye's conversations with God did a good job of that. I was also pleased with the general warmth that the jesting brought. I remarked at one point to my friend that "It almost makes me wish I was Jewish." There were definitely several actors who fit the play's standard Jewish role very, very well. Bikel himself was quite old for the part of Tevye, but he had the credentials. He was fluent in several languages, Hebrew naturally. He also had played the role of Tevye in 1650 performances for the past thirty-four years.

While it was a humorous play, the seriousness underlining it had a deep impact on myself. I was not aware until intermission that the time period was right before the Bolshevik Revolution. This made the play fit more in my mind. The prejudice, while secondary to Tevye's own dilemmas, said a lot for itself. Tevye's battles with tradition and change were done well. I came to understand the fiddler's symbolism after the play, and now I see why the fiddler was such an important part. That phrase, "Tradition? Ehh," is one I am not soon to forget. Another one is "Mazoltov," but that is another story.

In conclusion, I almost want to go back this weekend. I might have, if it wasn't for exams. Fiddler on the Roof is a wonderful play, and the national touring company that put it on deserves every compliment and ovation that they receive. My friend and I actually stood outside the stage doors and congratulated the cast members that we saw. If I had more time, this critique could become quite lengthy with my retelling of every little spectacle that amazed me! But, alas, I did wait until the last minute. I had a wonderful time, but it doesn't say much for me in my quest to stop procrastinating. Hey, it is a tradition.