Fiddler on the Roof | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Fiddler on the Roof



At nearly three hours, this revival takes its time. But then life in the shtetl of Anatevka in 1905 moves at a pretty glacial pace, even if history is clashing with tradition. The future arrives in little things--taboos broken, rumors spread--as much as in czarist edicts, and that's why the plight of Sholom Aleichem's dairyman Tevye is cumulatively devastating. With only God to confide in, this survivor contends with a lifetime of changes in just one year: pogroms and persecution and, at home, strong-willed daughters who marry for love instead of security or, worse, outside the faith. Happily, Tevye has Jerry Bock's ballads to rely on. ("Sunrise, Sunset" is every note as wise as it is warm.) Though sometimes shtick threatens to overpower sincerity, Broadway legend Theodore Bikel confers a moral weight on his Tevye that counterbalances the vaudeville banter with God and townsfolk. In this warmhearted show, we not only discover a family through its town but glimpse a future that might have been: though civil war erupts in the midst of a joyous wedding dance, five songs earlier, in the exuberant "To Life," czarist soldiers and Jewish peasants fused the hora and cossack dances. With Jerome Robbins's choreography, re-created by director Sammy Dallas Bayes, these communal scenes play like Marc Chagall village fantasies come to life (especially Tevye's surreal dream). This touring production abounds in warmly crafted portrayals, especially Susan Cella's flinty Golde, Daniel Cooney as the protorevolutionary Perchik, and Tamra Hayden as the protofeminist Hodel. Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 312-902-1400. Through January 7: Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, December 31, 7:30 PM; Sunday, January 7, 2 and 7:30 PM. $18-$68.

--Lawrence Bommer

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