Saturday, January 22, 2005

Fiddler's Re-opening Night a Triumph

Further to my previous post on the new cast for Fiddler on the Roof, it looks like the re-opening was a triumph, according to Playbill:

"Looking as if he could step in for Harvey Fierstein at a moment's notice, Ron Orbach hit the Minskoff lobby at intermission of Fiddler on the Roof Jan. 20 with a decidedly contented look on his puss. "I feel like the show's back," he said. "It went away for a bit."

In that feeling, the actor was not alone. A fair share of the "re-opening night audience" wore a similar expression, and their ovation at the end of the revival's 377th performance seconded the pervading notion that the Joseph Stein-Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick classic was now closer to its heart, humor and roots than what British director David Leveaux opened Feb. 26 with Alfred Molina.

The feeling was mutual on the other side of the footlights, too. "You feel the love coming from the audience," Fierstein admitted at the post-play party, held within the Zhivago-red walls of The Firebird, an elegant Russian eatery a few short blocks west of the Minskoff.

"I know it's a cliche, but it was a dream, and it has come true. To have the audience go insane like that -- and they've done that from the very first performance -- is incredible."
There's no question that they've taken a big gamble with Fierstein and everyone is waiting to see just how hardy Fiddler really is: Can it stand a revolving cast, and sit down permanently like Phantom et al?

"Credit for the off-beat casting director Leveaux passes on to Susan Bristow, who produced the show for The Nederlanders. "I was in Japan at the time this came up," he recalled. "Susan called me and said, 'Look, I'm thinking about life beyond Fred [Alfred Molina]. What do you think about Harvey? He has always been in the back of my mind as somebody who ought to play this.' The instant she said it, I thought, 'Yes, that's it. That's exactly where we need to go.' Harvey touches territory that perhaps was last seen in Fiddler when Zero Mostel played it, meaning you got a great clown on that stage. Fred came at it from the other end of the spectrum. The truth is you gotta be able to do both."

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