‘Fiddler on the Roof’ travels to Buffalo

Classic Broadway musical educates audience members at Shea’s

fiddler-on-the-roof

The classic Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof” brought its production to Shea’s Performing Arts Center for six days of exploration into Jewish culture. The performance offered a sentimental look into family, tradition and overcoming obstacles. 

The production runs from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4 and is a part of the M&T Bank Broadway Series. The show is full of comedic dialogue and powerful musical numbers. Although many of the jokes are references for the Jewish audience members, the comedy is fluid and has a strong delivery. This unites the audience members together under the blanket of comedy and the message of family. 

The story follows Tevye, a husband and father of five, and the obstacles he faces while trying to maintain his Jewish traditions. The story takes place in 1905 Imperial Russia. He has to face his three headstrong daughters as they pursue marriage, all while maneuvering the rising anti-semitism in the country. 

The production includes classic songs from the original production like “Tradition” and “Sunrise, Sunset.” The songs are accompanied by elaborate dance numbers featuring traditional Jewish dances. Many of the musical numbers were filled with humor, drawing laughs from the audience. “If I Were a Rich Man” caused an uproar of audience laughter as Tevye danced around the stage. 

Despite the jubilant nature of the characters and their amusing relationships, the production’s interpretation of anti-Semitic Russians is compelling and serious. 

The scenes of confrontation are emotionally driven and uncomfortable to watch. The contrast between the production’s serious scenes and fun musical numbers further emphasizes significance of the ethnic conflict.

The theme of family mixed with comedy makes it relatable to all audiences. 

Brian Doherty, a resident of Amherst, enjoyed the performance despite not being Jewish.

“I thought the show was really good and has a good message. It teaches you more about other cultures. It teaches you tolerance,” Doherty said. “The Jewish community still has to face biases like this today. It’s important to see how everyone is the same.”

The production featured an incredibly talented cast. The performers were able to sing and dance passionately for the entire three-hour show. Actor Yehezkel Lazarov (Tevye) drew the most praise for his performance. 

Lazarov originally came from Israel, which added a natural inflection that fit the character perfectly. Although his vocal range changed depending on the musical number, he proved multiple times throughout the show he was a strong vocalist. The female vocalists also proved their talent with strong harmonies and emotion-filled tone. 

The story has multiple instances of cultural change and acceptance. Tevye’s temperament toward his daughter’s marriages, which didn’t follow the traditional path for Jewish women, signifies his priorities. The same idea is found at the end of the play. The Jewish community is expelled from their village. Rather than risk his family’s life, Tevye decides to take them to America much to his dismay. 

The politically charged message of tolerance and the suffering of the Jewish characters came at a difficult time for many of the audience members. “Fiddler on the Roof” opened at Shea’s three days after the most recent, anti-semitic mass shooting in Pittsburgh. The shooting resulted in the death of 11 Jewish citizens. Despite the similarities within the story, the production did not acknowledge the tragic event.

“I really thought they would have addressed [the shooting]. It ran through my mind for the whole show,” said Lisa Blizzard, a Lancaster resident. “I thought the performance was very good. It had an important message.”

The show ended on a melancholy tone as the Jewish community walked together out of their village, bringing along their own fiddler and their traditions. The performance ended with a standing ovation from the audience.

Samantha Vargas is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at samantha.vargas@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @SamVargasArts