It”s been 37 years since the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof” made its national debut on the elegant stage of the Fisher Theater in Detroit.
Numerous awards later, the Fiddler is back, with stage legend Theodore Bikel once again playing the feisty father and milkman named “Tevye,” a role he has performed almost 1700 times.
Bikel, notorious for his work in “Fiddler,” has had a truly outstanding career in the performing arts. An actor of the stage, film (for which he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination) and television (for which he won a 1998 Emmy award), he has served in the Actor”s Equity Association, the board of Amnesty International and the American Jewish Congress. He also speaks five languages and was appointed in 1977 by former President Jimmy Carter to serve on the National Council for the Arts.
Kicking off a leg of the two-year national tour in Detroit on November 16, “Fiddler on the Roof” is back and better than ever, with a seasoned cast and enthusiasm to spare.
“Fiddler on the Roof,” set in the small Russian village of Anatevka in the early 20th century, is the story of Tevye, his wife and their five daughters. As the old-fashioned Tevye looses each of his daughters to romance and changing times as they grow older, he is faced with questions about his own identity and relationship with his wife, illustrated in the tear-inducing duet “Do you love me?” Make no mistake, however: This show definitely has plenty of lighthearted moments, combining the best of both drama and comedy, along with famous showtunes such as “Tradition” and “Sunrise, Sunset.”
Known for its classic soundtrack and, of course, the traditional Russian bottle-dancing scene, “Fiddler on the Roof” was initially adapted from a Yiddish story by Sholom Aleichem titled “Tevye and His Daughters.”
Current director Sammy Dallas Bayes has recreated the original choreography by prominent dancer and director Jerome Robbins in this production.
Dallas Bayes, a former protg of Robbins, has had a storied career in American musical theater, as well as abroad. He has worked on and won acclaim for some of the most famous musicals of all time, including “West Side Story” and “Godspell.”
Many came to see “Fiddler” as it jubilantly sang and danced its way through Detroit at this time last year. Much is unchanged including the cast, many of whom have been playing in “Fiddler” for over 30 years. Some cast members are transplants from the Broadway production as well: “A lot of them have done Broadway and have actually been in productions in various incarnations,” says Marya Keefe, a national publicity representative for the tour. Keefe, a Spring 2001 graduate of the University of Michigan with a BFA in Performance as a Directing concentrator, is excited about the U-M community experiencing the Detroit production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” “I really want to get the word out to the U of M community about these shows Ann Arbor has such a great theater school and musical theater school,” she said.