Meet Tevye. He's A Mensch In 'Fiddler On The Roof'
Tevye is a mensch. In director Bartlett Sher’s thoughtful but uneven revival of the enduring, endearing musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” Danny Burstein – a longtime Broadway veteran stepping at last into a starring role as comfortably as a favorite slipper — brings charm, decency and depth of feeling to the role of a Jewish dairyman living in a shtetl in pre-Revolution Russia with his wife, Golde, and their five daughters. Some may take exception to some of Sher’s tinkering with the template of the beloved title, but few will find fault in Burstein’s gentle, lovable man of faith, family and community. What’s not to like?
The personal intimacy of Tevye’s casual conversations with God, not to mention the easy rapport Burstein has with the audience, only intensifies the humor and humanity of the classic material, and should prove an attractive draw for both first-timers and returning fans of the show.
But the first time we see him it isn’t as the iconic peasant trying to find his place in God’s universe but rather as a present-day searcher — we know this because he is dressed in a synthetic winter parka — checking out the old country, perhaps discovering his heritage, perhaps doing research for the show. A faded train sign on a nearly bare stage indicates he’s in a place once known as Anatevka as he reads from a battered book, presumably the stories of Sholom Aleichem, on which the musical is based.
This wordless prologue is broken by the plaintive playing of a lone fiddler, followed by the introduction of the community of Jewish villagers emerging from the back depths of the stage, introducing themselves and their place in the community in the familiar song “Tradition,” gaining strength in their increasing numbers and certainties.