Review – Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish)

I’ve seen a few productions of Fiddler on the Roof, but none quite like this. I saw the recent Danny Burstein Broadway production with the controversial emigrant framing method and provocative version of Matchmaker and enjoyed it. But the version currently at Stage 42 here in New York is something very special. It is performed entirely in Yiddish (and a little Russian).

It is a very traditional mounting in both tone and stagecraft. But having talented performers (as directed by Joel Grey) perform it in Yiddish, it becomes transformational. I don’t speak Yiddish. Handily there were English translations on the side schmatta that frames the stage. But very quickly, and especially during the songs, I ignored the projections and just listened and watched. It was fantastic.

There have been some problematic revivals of classical works mounted in New York of late. Hello Dolly, Carousel, and My Fair Lady are beloved but all carry the casual misogyny and fingerprints of the patriarchy that once shaped popular culture unfettered. And watch out for the new revival of Kiss Me, Kate based on The Taming of the Shrew (supposedly updated for the #metoo generation, but we shall see). However Fiddler has always including the empowerment of the daughters as society changes around Tevya. No wincing at this script.

I highly recommend that you see this production which is currently slated to run through the summer. You will be seeing Fiddler in a whole new light and a very fitting language.

As always you can find more at and on Twitter @walterthinnes

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