Fiddler on the Roof

Golden Gate Theater production

The fiddler on the roof may be an omen of change, of destruction and uprooted lives in a tradition-bound shtetl, but Fiddler on the Roof is indestructible. Swinging through town for another stint with Theodore Bikel, the world's most experienced Tevye (over 1,650 performances), this Fiddler seems to have lost some energy -- but not its power to move. Of course, some of it is schmaltz -- "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," for example, and "Do You Love Me" -- and the script is about as compact and well controlled as the Titanic. But the untraditional marriages of Tevye's daughters, each more troublesome than the last, have an elemental purity, and Bikel wears the patriarch's role like an old pair of shoes. He acts on a level well above the rest of the cast, and delivers songs like "If I Were a Rich Man" and "To Life" without seeming tired of them. The wonderfully goofy sequence of "Tevye's Dream" is a highlight, with its marching band and singing corpses; the Villagers exult like religious ecstatics in the first part of "The Wedding Dance." Miriam Babin plays an effectively shrill and meddling Yente, counterbalancing a few flat performances from other actors, such as Susan Cella as Golde. By now Fiddler should be less of a show than a touring exhibit, like the "Treasures of Tutankhamen," but somehow it still has life.

 
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