New "Tradition" Begins Jan. 23 With First Performance of Leveaux's Fiddler on the Roof

News   New "Tradition" Begins Jan. 23 With First Performance of Leveaux's Fiddler on the Roof
 
Fiddler on the Roof, that smash-hit musical whose titular musician doesn't have a speaking part, returns to Broadway Jan. 23 for a new generation of theatregoers to wonder this about the show's title: "What's in a name?"

Randy Graff And Alfred Molina (right), stars of Fiddler on the Roof
Randy Graff And Alfred Molina (right), stars of Fiddler on the Roof

Before they settled on Fiddler on the Roof as a title, the creators of the show kicked around The Old Country, Tevye and Where Papa Came From as possibilities for their unlikely hit about life in the Russian-Jewish shtetl.

Original producer Harold Prince suggested a title with a music reference (it was good enough for Carousel) — and there was, after all, a fiddler character woven into the tale of yearning villagers in 1900 Russia.

Few marketing executives today would choose the name Fiddler on the Roof for the marquee, but, then, back in 1964 few would have guessed that a musical that features a pogrom at the end of Act One would be a hit with audiences around the world. The original Broadway run played more the 3,200 performances.

Director David Leveaux (Nine) stages this 40th anniversary revival, set to open Feb. 26 at the Minskoff Theatre, with 50-year-old Alfred Molina (Art) as Tevye the milkman, a character first created by story writer Sholom Aleichem, on whose tales the show is based. Joseph Stein wrote the libretto, and the score is by Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Jerry Bock (music).

Molina, who admitted he's the first "goy" playing papa Tevye in a new Broadway revival, stars opposite Randy Graff (City of Angels, Les Misérables, A Class Act), who is wife Golde. Tevye and Golde famously are raising five daughters in the village of Anatevka, on the eve of the Russian revolution. Holding fast to their traditions, they find themselves bending as their three older daughters fall on love with, respectively, a tailor, a revolutionary teacher and an outsider. To tell the story of the tiny and universal world, the show's original choreography by the late Jerome Robbins is being employed (Jonathan Butterell, also of Nine,, is credited with musical staging). According to sources close to the production, the fiddler character is more present in this show than in previous revivals. Robbins originally wanted the fiddler to be more of a presence, but the metaphoric part was whittled down before it played Broadway 40 years ago.

New to this Fiddler is a new song, written recently by Bock and Harnick, called "Topsy-Turvy," written as an animated moment for Yente, the matchmaker, and the village women in Act Two. It takes the place of "The Rumor," which was first employed to cover a scene change in 1964. Barbara Barrie plays Yente in the revival.

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Rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof began Dec. 1, 2003.

The three daughters who challenge their tradition-bound father, Tevye — to be played by above-the-title Alfred Molina — will be Sally Murphy (A Man of No Importance) as Tzeitel, Laura Michelle Kelly (a recent Eliza in London's My Fair Lady and a candidate for Mary Poppins in the future) as Hodel and Tricia Paoluccio (Debbie Does Dallas, A View From the Bridge) as Chava. The choice roles of Motel the tailor and Perchik the revolutionary are played by John Cariani and Robert Petkoff, respectively.

Fiddler on the Roof (from the 1964-65 Broadway season) is considered one of the masterpieces of musical theatre, co-created by director-choreographer Jerome Robbins.

Barbara Barrie is a veteran who was Tony Award nominated for Company, Graff snagged a Tony for City of Angels and recently played the New York City debut of Paula Vogel's The Long Christmas Ride Home Off-Broadway.

The Fiddler cast includes David Ayers (Fyedka), Stephen Lee Anderson (Constable), David Wohl (Lazar Wolf), Nick Danielson (Fiddler), Lea Michele (Sphritze) and Molly Ephraim (the recent Little Red in Into the Woods, as Bielke), and Yusef Bulos (Rabbi), Chris Ghelfi (Mendel), Philip Hoffman (Mordcha), Mark Lotito (Avram), Stephen Ward Billeisen (Vladek/Russian Dancer), Randy Bobish (Yitzuk/Bottle Dancer), Melissa Bohon (Anya), Enrique Brown (Yussel/Bottle Dancer), Sean Curley, Rita Harvey (Fredel), Joy Hermalyn (Rivka), Keith Kuhl (Vladimir/Russian Dancer), Jeff Lewis (Label/Bottle Dancer), Craig Ramsay (Boris/Russian Dancer), David Rossmer (Man 1), Jonathan Sharp (Sasha), Haviland Stillwell (Surcha), Barbara Tirrell (Shandel), Tom Titone (Nachum), Francis Toumbakaris (Shlome/Bottle Dancer), Michael Tommer (ensemble), Marsha Waterbury (Mirala) and Bruce Winant (Man 2). Swings are Gina Lamparella, Roger Rosen and Gustavo Wons.

The cast totals 40, with an orchestra of 25, musical directed by Kevin Stites (Nine). The orchestra features Don Walker's original orchestrations, with Larry Hochman orchestrating :"Topsy-Turvy."

The design team includes Tom Pye (scenic), Vicki Mortimer (costumes), Tony Award winner Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Acme Sound Partners (sound). Hair and wig design is by David Brian Brown.

Zero Mostel and Maria Karnilova created the roles of Tevye and Golde in 1964-65. They both won 1965 Tony Awards for their work (in the Best Actor and Best Featured Actress categories).

Producing the 2004 revival are James L. Nederlander, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley, Harbor Entertainment, Terry Allen Kramer, Bob Boyett/Lawrence Horowitz, Clear Channel Entertainment.

Leveaux directed Nine (for which he was Tony nommed) in the 2002-03 Broadway season. Leveaux had previously staged the Maury Yeston musical in London and Argentina. Leveaux's recent work in New York includes The Real Thing, Betrayal, Electra, A Moon for the Misbegotten and Anna Christie. He recently staged Jumpers for the Royal National Theatre in London; that revival has been announced for a spring berth on Broadway.

Fiddler spawned such songs as "If I Were a Rich Man," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "Sunrise, Sunset" and "To Life."

Molina was nominated for a Tony Award for his work in the three-person Broadway play Art and starred in the TV series "Ladies Man" and "Bram and Alice." On the London stage the actor was seen in Serious Money, Speed-the Plow and Night of the Iguana. This summer he will play the infamous comic-book villain, Dr. Octopus, in the feature film, "Spider-Man 2."

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Three revivals of Fiddler have played Broadway — in 1976, 1981 and 1990. The most recent production played the Gershwin Theatre and starred Topol and Marcia Lewis as, respectively, Tevye and his wife Golde. The 1971 film, with direction by Norman Jewison, featured Topol and Norma Crane.

Fiddler opened Sept. 22, 1964 at the Imperial Theatre, won eight 1965 Tony Awards including Best Musical and played 7 previews and 3,242 regular performances.

Tickets for the new Fiddler range $35 to $100. The playing schedule is Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. There will be no 2 PM Wednesday matinee performance on Jan. 28 or Feb. 4. There will be an 8 PM curtain time for the Tuesday Jan. 27 performance. Tickets range from $35 to $100, and are available through Ticketmaster.com at (212) 307 4100.

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