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REVIEW: Energetic Fiddler on the Roof Arrives (Orpheum Theatre/Hennepin Theatre Trust)

The cast of the Fiddler on the Roof national tour, now playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Photo by Joan Marcus.

There’s not much new that can be written about Fiddler on the Roof, one of the most-beloved and most-performed shows in the American musical theatre canon. Its songs are as ubiquitous as they are tuneful, treasured, and hummed by people who have never set foot in a theatre or even realize that their cousin walked down the aisle to music from a show by Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock, and Sheldon Harnick. There’s really no reason to go into any synopsis of events in this classic musical about a rural Jewish community in early 20th-century Russia.

The show that opened last night at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis is a thrilling journey through a classic show. Yehezkel Lazarov, as dairyman father Tevye, milks the show’s abundant humor throughout the arc. Lazarov has strong comic timing, a well-developed and distinct interpretation of the character, and ample stage charisma. The back-and-forth sparring of songs like “Do You Love Me?” (with Maite Uzal as Golde) is funny, endearing, and also well-earned. Uzal and Lazarov’s duet “Sunrise, Sunset” is one of the emotional highlights of the show, a performance that can send parents darting through pockets and purses for tissues.

Tradition is sometimes like feeling that your ancestors are peering over your shoulder – good and bad. L-R: Carolyn Keller, Michael Hegarty, Maite Uzal, and Yehezkel Lazarov. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The vision for this production, following the 2015 revival directed by Bartlett Sher, sows ample visual and atmospheric hints of the events to come. Along the way, we get to see a veritable series of compelling romances (not all successful), in which various actors showcase themselves. The famous “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” song is very cutely delivered by Mel Weyn, Ruthy Froch, and Natalie Powers. Jesse Weil’s exuberant delivery of “Miracle of Miracles” is an effervescent delight.  There are other moments, to be sure, but the real question is: do you want to see a very excellent production of a musical that’s fun to listen to and has a few story threads that make you think about your dear ones and current events? If so, the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof has a show for you.

Fiddler has been done many ways. The present tour strips away many layers added over the years, going back (so to speak) to tradition in a vibrant and powerful way. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Fiddler on the Roof plays through August 4 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil Considine