Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guest Blogger Bowled Over By Topol in Fiddler on the Roof

Jacob Matsumiya, our guest blogger and critic, has been away enjoying the summer in the Big Apple. Lucky for us, he's now back in Orange County to start the school year at Chapman University, and ready to review performances again. On Tuesday night, Jacob attended opening night of Fiddler on the Roof. His review is below:

Fiddler on the Roof is undoubtedly one of the major works in the canon of musical theater. Walk up to almost anyone on the street and they would probably be able to perform a small snippet of “If I Were a Rich Man” complete with Tevye-esque choreography. Fiddler is an iconic work and who better to take it on than the iconic Tevye himself, Topol.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect from the now 73-year-old Topol. Without question he lives and breathes Tevye. From his Oscar-nominated performance in the 1971 film to the numerous international productions of Fiddler he’s appeared in, Topol is as much associated with the character of Tevye as Yul Brenner is with the King of Siam or Carol Channing is with Dolly Levi. But, I was uncertain if he still had the energy, passion, and stage presence to bring the character to life.

Well let me assure you that within the first five minutes all my doubts were erased as the still spry and energetic performer, with his deep voice and confident swagger, entered downstage to explain to the audience the concept of “Tradition.” Age has done nothing to wither his comedic timing, subtle portrayal or dancing ability, and if anything, his experience has brought more depth to the role. He adeptly weaves humor and an inner sadness to share more than a few tender moments with the audience that leave you with a lasting connection with this poor everyman. While at the same time you never would have guessed that he’s appeared in the production more than 2,500 times, as he still seems to be having the time of his life delivering one of his hysterically funny asides to God or begrudgingly accepting the whims of his three daughters. He brings warmth and an understanding to the role of Tevye that only someone with his history with the role could do. Billed as his “Farwell Tour,” this production of Fiddler on the Roof is not to be missed. I doubt there will ever be a portrayal of Tevye quite like Topol’s - a standout performance by a consummate professional.

The other standout of the evening for me was the book of show written by Joseph Stein. Many of today’s musicals sacrifice a good script, dialogue, and story for the sake of flashy production numbers; many of which do little to further the plot. What I love about Fiddler and most classic musicals is that the focus is first-and-foremost the story, and all other elements – the music, choreography, and design – serve to flesh out the story and not the other way around. Fiddler, with its themes of tradition, parental expectations, societal values, is just as witty, poignant and charming after all these years, as it was when it debuted on Broadway 45 years ago. This fact speaks to the enduring quality of this well-structured and beautifully crafted piece of theater. Whether you’ve seen it a hundred times or never, I strongly urge you to take part in this musical theater tradition. You definitely will not be disappointed that you did.
(Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

1 comment:

Ticketwood said...

I've seen different musicals many times and Fiddler was one of my best attended shows ever…I got a pretty good seat after comparing prices for Free from . It was really one of the most memorable shows with a beautiful, smooth-flowing set, gorgeous music and a super talented cast.