Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Harvey Fierstein Coming to D.C. as Tevye

A news release came across my desk recently.  It announces that the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof, starring Tony® Award-winning actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, will be arriving at Washington's National Theatre in April.

The last time I saw Fiddler on the Roof in Washington, it featured Herschel Bernardi as Tevye at the Warner Theatre.  I think this was in 1980 or 1981.

Bernardi (who also starred in Zorba on Broadway and as "Arnie" on the eponymous TV series in the early 1970s) had taken over the role in the original New York run from the peripatetic and unpredictable Zero Mostel, who despite a brilliant performance in the lead, had a habit of breaking character and, for instance, announcing football scores to the audience in the middle of a show.  (I don't think the New York Giants played a lot of games in Tsarist Russia.)

I was also fortunate to have seen Harvey Fierstein in his first big hit, Torch Song Trilogy, on Broadway.  Matthew Broderick had already left the cast, but Fisher Stevens had taken over the role of David, the gay teenager needing an accepting home, which Fierstein's Arnold provides for him.  (Interestingly, I also saw Stevens on Broadway in Brighton Beach Memoirs, after he had taken over the role of Eugene, originated by -- wait for it -- Matthew Broderick.)

All this, plus my experience of having performed in Fiddler on the Roof in community theatre in 1979, will bring warm waves of nostalgia, coinciding with the arrival of the cherry blossoms.   Nice timing.

Here is the text of the news release about Fiddler on the Roof in Washington:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 21, 2010) Tradition is back! Harvey Fierstein reprises his Broadway role as Tevye in the North American Tour of the Tony® Award-winning musical FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, playing the National Theatre April 13 through May 9, 2010.

Tickets for FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, starting at $51.50, go on sale Sunday, February 14, at 12 noon at the National Theatre Box Office and through Telecharge at or by calling (800) 447-7400. For groups of 15 or more, call (866) 276-2947. For more information, call (202) 628-6161 or visit

Mr. Fierstein starred as the iconic milkman Tevye in the critically acclaimed Broadway revival. Audiences now have the rare opportunity to see the Tony® Award-winner embrace one of his favorite roles in this Jerome Robbins-inspired production. Mr. Fierstein has won four Tony® Awards, including Best Play and Best Actor in a Play for Torch Song Trilogy. His most recent win was in 2003 for Best Actor in a Musical for Hairspray. He also won for La Cage aux Folles (Best Book), the upcoming Broadway revival of which opens this April. Mr. Fierstein was most recently seen on Broadway in A Catered Affair, for which he also wrote the book.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its universal appeal and timeless message. The North American Tour continues the tradition of the 1964 Jerome Robbins Broadway production, for which Robbins garnered twin Tonys® for direction and choreography. In this National Tour, both are faithfully recreated by Director Sammy Dallas Bayes, choreographer of the Broadway Revival.

When FIDDLER ON THE ROOF opened in the United States in 1964, it was a time of change and crumbling traditions in this country. Perhaps the explanation for its worldwide success in the '60s and '70s was that the play illustrated the universality of such issues as the “generation gap,” youthful dissent, revolutionary doctrine, and the oppression of minorities. Students of the time identified with the rebellious Perchik, and strongly related to the breaking of hallowed traditions. Tevye and others of his time struggled with these same issues in 1905, and emerged triumphant, offering the hope and promise of reconciliation to a turbulent society. Today, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is as relevant as ever.

Now, in the midst of a new millennia, in a world fraught with anxiety and fear, the one constant humanity can rely on is the strength of family and of its traditions that will ultimately sustain it through its own trials and tribulations. Forty-five years later, new audiences can identify and take heart as they experience the tradition in great musical theatre that is FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.
It might just be coincidence, or an ill portent, that this production of Fiddler opens on the 145th anniversary of another notable event in a Washington theater:  the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's, just a few blocks from the National Theatre.

Be sure to visit my CafePress store for gifts and novelty items!
Read my blog on Kindle!
Follow my tweets on Twitter!

No comments: