The Roof is on Fiddler: a Musical Parody | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Roof is on Fiddler: a Musical Parody


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The Roof is on Fiddler: a Musical Parody, at Improv-Olympic. There are elements of parody in T.J. Shanoff and Rich Talarico's twisted version of the beloved musical adaptation of Sholem Aleichem's comic stories. Most notably, Shanoff has set Sheldon Harnick's lyrics to the tunes of pop songs from the past 30 years. One of the more hilarious numbers, "Matchmaker," is sung to Madonna's "Like a Virgin." But Shanoff and Talarico have done nothing so bold as real satire in the tradition of Mad magazine: Frank Jacobs in "Antenna on the Roof" recast the story as the tale of Tevye's rich, middle-aged, angst-ridden grandson living in Scarsdale and dreaming of the simplicity of shtetl life. They merely condense Joseph Stein's script into 90 minutes, leaving intact many of Tevye's funniest lines.

Not that I'm complaining. Stein's material is wonderful. And Shanoff and Talarico have packed this late-night production with many of Chicago's most talented comic actors, among them Jack McBrayer, Martin Garcia, Abby Sher, and Tami Sagher. Talarico himself plays the long-suffering Tevye. Some of the casting has an in-joke bent, most notably the choice of Charna Halpern for matchmaker Yente: Halpern, who puts together the ImprovOlympic teams, is the scene's unofficial professional matchmaker. But mostly Shanoff and Talarico win laughs in this immensely likable show by milking Stein's lines and moving us with Sholem Aleichem's vivid stories.

--Jack Helbig

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