AISLE SAY Twin Cities


Book by Joseph Stein
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Sammy Dallas Bayes
Starring Theodore Bikel
Historic Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis / (612) 989-5151

Reviewed by Roxanne Sadovsky and Ellen Dworsky

I am a bad Jew. I had never seen "Fiddler on the Roof" until it horahed over to The Orpheum for a ten day run. Nu, what was I thinking? So much of my Jewish identity would have made sense to me (as would my appreciation for latkes) had I at least rented the movie. All the same, I finally made it. I at long last heard one of my favorite feel-good-sappy-love songs ("Miracle of Miracles") live on stage and could feel it heart to toe. I finally got to see where my ancestors are from and the silly little dances they used to do. I got to laugh from my gut when Tevye ("Roof" veteran Theodore Bikel) communicates with God in that Jeweotyped, "what? I should put up with this?" manner about love, loss, forgiveness, sacrifice and of course, TRADITION. I got weepy.

Sure, the Theatre Live! production starring Bikel and a handful of his Broadway buddies is the familiar story we all know and love. It continues to examine archetypal themes surrounding family, conflict and religion, also appealing to the contemporary cross-cultural crowd without having to jump on the artsy bandwagon by sporting an all transsexual cast. And yes, the thing lasted as long as my wedding and was heavy on the shmaltz, but it was worth the weight. Besides, much of the audience consisted of older folk who flocked to the Orpheum as though it were hosting the Messiah—they are old and used to suffering whereas I am young and have ADD. Best of all, however, was that I got to go with my token Jewish friend (what? one should have more than one in Minneapolis?).

While we naturally decided to give the show a big thumbs up, we're convinced that's already been done: We know it's a good story. We know how it ends. And even if we don't, it's a cultural icon and any given Joe Christmas could sing his way through the musical. We know we will be crying during "Sunrise Sunset". We know we will think of our ancestors and feel that sweet twinge of old-world family wafting through our soul (some call it spirituality) when Motel (Michael Iannucci) reminds us that our own grandfather was a tailor in Russia. Given all that, we decided to break with tradition and comment on all the good stuff that will send you running to see the thing. Without further ado, we then bring you the Two-Jew Review, courtesy of Sadovsky and Dworsky.

On the story:

Dworsky: I don't remember the movie being this campy.
Sadovsky: I know. I don't either.
D: But you've never seen it.
S. Oh.

On the theme:

S: Now I get it. It's about—
D: How is it that you never saw this as a child? What's wrong with you? Didn't you watch it with your parents growing up?
S: Nah. We had to watch after school specials about the holocaust. What do you want?
D: So? My mom turned the crib upside down so I couldn't climb out and turn on the radio at five in the morning and dance.
S: The hora? Well, that explains it.

On the songs:

S: Great, but they could have shortened it up by doing the rap version.
D: Get out! I heard you sniffling during "Sunrise Sunset".
S: So? Like you weren't a puddle of snot during "Sabbath Prayer"?
D: I thought you were going to jump on stage during "Miracle of Miracles".

On the acting:

S: I believed it.
D: Yeah, I sit in my backyard and wail at God.
S: But wasn't Theodore Bikel convincing as the beleagured father of FIVE DAUGHTERS who fought for love over tradition?
D: I guess. And I will admit a fondness for the fiddler.

On the accent:

D: The only one who had a decent accent was Tevye. And guess what? That's because he does.
S: In real life?
D: No, in death. Jesus; don't you read your press pack? The guys like multi-lingual. He speaks Yidglish.

On Yente:

S: She was like the grandma in Crossing Delancey.
D: What the hell is Crossing Delancey?
S: What the hell kind of Jew are you? It's a movie with Amy Irving about a grandmother who wants to set her up with a pickle man. You know, the bubbe who overeats, worries, and collects paper bags.
D: What in God's name are you talking about? Anyway, she was loud and annoying.
S: She's s'posed to be.
D: She did a good job then.

On the costumes and the set:

D: Your typical impoverished village motif.
S: Right. How come the gals have to cover their heads, again?
D: Because only your husband can see your hair.
S: Great. Where do I sign up?
D: Jeez, Rox. Again with the hair!

On the dance:

D: I liked the bar scene when they dance with the Cossacks.
S: Totally. How do they not get tired? All that tangled leg crossed over midriff business. It was like watching interactive cat's cradle. All that weaving. Oy.
D: What do I know about dancing? I was traumatized as a child, remember???

On posting this:

D: Do you think they will?
S: Why not? Jewish humor.

On the humor:

S: I didn't hear you laughing much. I can't believe how much they reminded me of my family.
D: Well you know my family's motto is "keep a stiff upper lip." I was laughing on the inside.
S: I thought it was hilarious. All that physical humor.

On the audience:

D: I haven't seen that many Jews in one place since the High Holy Days.
S: Now, is it High Holy Days or High Holidays?
D: Holy. Should we say something about all the fur coats?
S: Is that a Minnesota Jewish thing?
D: Did you ever notice any fur coats in California? Anyway, they ate it up.
S: Like a good kugel.

On the message:

D: The press pack says it's about overcoming the evils of prejudice in the midst of the Russian revolution by maintaining strong family ties.
S: I just like the songs. I thought the Russian—what was his name? Fyedka?—who marries Chava was a hottie.
D: Yeah, that's deep. In other words, any shallow Jill can relate on some level.

On should you or should you not go:

S: I'd tell anyone to go see it...if they have ten hours to kill.
D: And if they have good bladder control.
S: Amen.

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