Families are in for some great theater now! If you’ve never seen FIDDLER ON THE ROOF or if you’ve seen it a hundred times– see it again presented by Broadway in Boston at the Colonial Theatre through March 8! This Tony Award-winning musical theater classic is– miracle of miracles–foolproof. Those beautiful, instantly memorable and beloved songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick cut to the quick of a tale perfectly perched between heartache, and hope. The musical is based on Sholom Aleichem’s tales of a Jewish dairyman, his wife and 5 daughters as they navigate their precarious world in Tsarist Russia, their faith the through line in an avalanche of change.
There are marvelous performances with a few exceptions (those playing Yente, Lazar Wolf, and the Rabbi stick out and must be tolerated like sore thumbs) including Yehezkel Lazarov’s acerbic yet tender “Tevye.” His wife Golde played by Maite Uzale is hilariously deadpan, and their three daughters– Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava– who each fall in love with a man who tests their father’s endurance, are a fresh-voiced, winning trio: Kelly Gabrielle Murphy, Ruthy Froch, and Noa Luz Barenblat. The ensemble moves like an ever-shifting flock of birds, sinuously reshaping itself around elegant new choreography and staging.
Tradition, change, and antisemitism are the order of Tevye’s day; with its subtle framing device and abiding humanity, this “Fiddler” continues to play a tune for the ages. In the third decade of the 21st century, an era of turbulent global social transformation and rising antisemitism, this production swept me up with a special urgency that left tears in my eyes and a fearful faith in my soul. SEE “FIDDLER ON THE ROOF” at Emerson Colonial Theatre through March 8
Then, take the children and yourselves immediately to Needham to be mesmerized by Arlekin Players. This ever-imaginative and adventurous Russian troupe has taken Pushkin’s THE TALE OF THE FISHERMAN AND THE FISH and created a thing of magic, mystery, and beauty. A hush fell over the audience which included a group of young children (5 and up) who sat at the edge of their seats in the dark. Then, two small, very detailed, very expressive puppets appeared–a fisherman and his wife. The fisherman catches a fish and is granted three wishes. What happens next all unfolds in the middle of this small yet somehow expansive theater space and the endless depths of our imaginations.
Under the direction of Evgeny Ibragimov and puppet and set designer Ksenya Litvak, the cast acted as puppeteers and immediately became one with their puppets; wearing black and clustered around a minimal set in the shadows, they are visible and invisible. There is no dialogue, but there is delicate lighting (Stephen Petrilli), music (Nikolay Yakimov), distant muttering, and the sound of the ocean, the crash of its waves, ingeniously conjured up before us as an infinitely unfurling pearlescent sea; one day it yields up a fish with glittering scales and an offer for a poor fisherman and his greedy wife.
I was instantly under its spell. The silence and subtlety of the puppets drew me in, the smallest of gestures creating ripples of meaning and feeling. At only 60 minutes, “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish” held our audience of all ages hypnotized, simple and fascinating for the little ones, enthralling for those susceptible to what only fairy tales can tell. It seemed to me this particular fable is especially resonant now in a world both wanting, and greedy for more when those wants are filled. SEE THE TALE OF THE FISHERMAN AND THE FISH at Arlekin Players through April 12!