By: Darryl D’Souza
Watching Mirvish’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, playing at the Canon Theatre, certainly makes for a very entertaining evening. Frankly, I wasn’t sure that it would be, given its length and subject matter (the marrying off of several daughters,) I thought I would be bored to death. Happily, I was proved wrong.
The play flew by for me, despite being approximately 3 hours long, including one intermission. This was the first time I’ve seen the play, and I have never seen Norman Jewison’s 1971 film version. Although I haven’t seen any other versions, if you’re a huge fan, I cannot imagine you being disappointed with this production.
If, like me, you’ve never seen Fiddler on the Roof before, then you’re in for a treat. There are a number of memorable musical numbers like: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “If I were a rich man”, and “Tradition”. Harvey Fierstein stars as Tevye, the poor father of five daughters, three of whom are of marriageable age.
Playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof seems to me like the role Fierstein was born to play. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor in a live theatre performance as convincing as Harvey Fierstein was as Tevye. While I usually judge an actor or actress on how convincingly they play their character, with Fierstein I was unable to differentiate the actor from the character he was playing, they were one. It was a performance I think all actors should strive for.
I haven’t liked a single film Fierstein has been in, and his acting in these films from what I remember was quite mediocre. But he is remarkably well suited to play Tevye, and does an excellent job in this production.
The person I went to the show with said that her favourite part was when Tevye finally gave in to his eldest daughter’s desire to marry the poor young tailor, rather than forcing her to marry the rich old butcher Yenta had arranged for her to marry.
Personally, I identified with the young Communist scholar. He is sadly sent to Siberia, which would much later also be the fate of many Jews while Stalin was in power. Fiddler on the Roof is certainly not just a feel good musical, it contains allusions to pogroms (something that happened quite frequently in Russia and other parts of Europe prior to the Holocaust,) and ends with a forced exodus from Russia that causes a Jewish Diaspora.
The person I went with asked me why it was called Fiddler on the Roof. Technically, the title of the play stems from a painting “The Fiddler” by Marc Chagall, who was known for his paintings of Eastern European Jewish life, and who’s paintings often included a fiddler. But in the show Tevye says “A fiddler on the roof… Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof. Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.”
With that in mind, I said I thought that the Fiddler symbolized the suffering of the Jews. The fact that a fiddler had no place being on a roof, is emblematic of how Jews (at least prior to the holocaust,) had no place in the countries where they lived. They were always liable to be thrown out (or even worse) by Anti-Semitic laws, like what happens at the end of Fiddler on the Roof.
If you’re looking for a great way to celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas with your family, then I can think of no better way than with Tevye and his daughters. Seeing this play will be something that both you and your children will not soon forget.
-It plays Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 1:30 pm.
-Ticket prices range from $40 – $225.
-Tickets are now available at the box office, by phone at 416.872.1212 (toll-free, call 1.800.461.3333) or click here to buy online through TicketKing.