Scuffle erupts over 'de-Jewed,' 'ethnic cleansing' opines
Broadway turned into Madison Square Garden on fight night last week.
After the curtain came down on the opening-night perf of “Fiddler,” a few hundred first-nighters, including Leveaux and Riedel, departed the Minskoff Theater to make their way across West 45th Street to the ballroom of the Marquis Hotel.
The “Fiddler” creatives were already peeved at the Post scribe. In a recent column, he claimed that Broadway insiders felt that “in Leveaux’s hands, ‘Fiddler’ had been ‘de-Jewed.’ ” To make his case, Riedel amply quoted Jewish historian Thane Rosenbaum, who had weighed in with an essay in the Los Angeles Times on the current “Fiddler” production.
“The sensation is as if you’re sampling something that tastes great and looks Jewish but isn’t entirely kosher,” wrote Rosenbaum, author of “The Golems of Gotham.”
“Fiddler” book writer Joseph Stein didn’t understand the fuss. Working the press line at the party, he compared the current revival with the original 1964 production.
“I don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s the same book. Do the characters have to speak with a Brooklyn accent to be Jewish?” he said.
Leveaux was a bit more steamed when asked about the controversy.
“The phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ pulls a switch,” said the British director. “It is unacceptable and untrue. We’ll ride the wave of those comments. Maybe Riedel thinks this is acceptable, but it is not.”
Leveaux added the current cast was “more Jewish” than the original.
The words “ethnic cleansing” appeared neither in Riedel’s Feb. 18 column (“Shtetl Shock”) nor in Rosenbaum’s Feb. 15 essay (“A Legacy Cut Loose”), but rather in the Post’s Page Six gossip column, which reprinted them from the Web site of Jack Myers.
The media analyst had attacked the production for being “ethnically cleansed” and for “excluding virtually all ethnic influences except those absolutely required by the script.”
Leveaux and Riedel left the party separately, but both ended up at Angus McIndoe.
“We got into a conversation about the show losing its Jewish soul,” Riedel said. “It was all very civil.” From there, the talk evolved into whether or not the British had an “instinctive feel” for Broadway musicals. Riedel admittedly snarled something about “Oxford intellectuals.”
The next thing, he found himself on the floor. “I don’t know how I got there,” the scribe said.
One observer said Leveaux wrestled Riedel to the floor. Another said there was a pushing match between the two men.
A spokesman for the show denied that any punches were delivered. Leveaux, who has returned to London, could not be reached for comment.
The “Fiddler” revival received mostly favorable reviews, with more than one critic finding the production “shtick-free.”