Theater Review: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in Yiddish at Stage 42

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The choreography – here by Staś Kmieć – channels that of Jerome Robbins from the frighteningly authentic display of both Jewish and Cossack folk dancing when Tevye toasts “Lekhayim” (“To Life”) and the much anticipated bottle dance at the wedding of Motl and Tsaytl is a showstopper.

Don’t speak Yiddish? Not to worry as there is no language barrier: the supertitled translations are excellent (for even greater authenticity, smaller supertitles in Russian are also projected) and you already know most of the songs and the story from growing up. (I grew up speaking German and English and understood roughly 90% of the Yiddish spoken and sung on stage.)

“Tradition” is “traditsye” in Anatevke, and Friedman cleverly morphed “If I Were a Rich Man” into “Ven Ikh Bin a Rothshild” (“If I were a Rothschild”), the latter a phrase taken directly from the title of one of Sholem Aleichem’s other stories. The never-ending argument between two of Anatevke’s townspeople about the sale of a horse (or was it a mule?) in the original Broadway show, the sale of a six-year-old horse (or was it 12 years old) in the movie, becomes a disagreement about whether it was a he-goat (book) or a she-goat (tsig).

When Hodl (Stephanie Lynne Mason) sings one of the most heartbreaking songs in the show, “Far From the Home I Love,” she intones “Vayt fun Mayn Liber Heym.”

The troupe brought Ann Hould-Ward’s somewhat period costumes uptown with them and they continue to look absolutely splendid in the nicely improvised village of Anatevke.

The show’s authenticity – and I feel I can’t close without being somewhat repetitive from my review of the Folksbiene production downtown – makes this not only the most faithful rendition of the show but squarely places it into the pantheon of must-see theater for all.

As Yente says: “Nit azoy? Zikher, azoy!” (“Not so? Certainly it is so!”).

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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