This “triumphant 30th-anniversary world tour” revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” is further evidence that the Stein-Bock-Harnick-Robbins musical was indeed the swan song of the golden age of Broadway musical theater. The passing years have only burnished its reputation, and it’s a pleasure to note that this production is for the most part vibrantly alive.
With more than 1,000 performances as Tevye under his belt, Theodore Bikel brings ample experience to the musical’s central role, his current outing coinciding with the publication of his autobiography “Theo” by Harper Collins. At 70, Bikel is no less stolid an actor than he’s always been. But he’s more of a singer than most of the many other Tevyes over the years, and it’s when he’s singing that his 1994 Tevye comes most fervently to life, full of rhythmic and musical vigor.
Bikel has clearly been helped by musical director Sheilah Walker, for this is a “Fiddler” that’s been beautifully prepared musically. How else explain the unusual impact of such comparatively lesser songs as “Do You Love Me?,” sung by Tevye and Golde (Marcia Rodd), and sad, rueful sextet “Anatevka”?
It must immediately be added that Rodd, repeating her Golde from the 25 th-anni revival starring Topol, is also a prime asset, readily overcoming the fact that she’s really too glamorous for the role.
Inevitably, the musical’s big songs, such as “Tradition” and “Sunrise, Sunset ,” are downright gorgeous given the choral strength of the cast of 35. Not even the artificial sound can spoil them. Sammy Dallas Bayes has done a splendid job of reproducing Jerome Robbins’ original direction and choreography. The production flows seamlessly from scene to scene.
Steve Cochrane’s warm lighting adds to the production’s virtues, and the costumes by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case are more than acceptable, striking the right balance between 1905 Russian-Jewish rags and Broadway theatricality.
As has been the case with virtually all “Fiddler” productions, the sets (uncredited) pay tribute to the late Boris Aronson’s Broadway originals, though they lack the sophistication of his Chagall-inspired flights of creativity. Still, they’re perfectly serviceable.
Seen amid the vast golden splendors of Boston’s recently renovated Wang Center for the Performing Arts, following its four-week opening engagement in Detroit, this 30th-anni “Fiddler” goes a long way toward deserving the adjective “triumphant.” If Bikel could invest his between-songs acting with a touch more vitality, it would go even further.