“Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as...as a Fiddler on the Roof,” announces Tevye, the humble milkman from the Russian village of Anatevka. And so begins anew that beloved tale of love and laughter, devotion and defiance...and changing traditions.
Fiddler on the Roof, the Tony Award-winning musical that has captured the hearts of people everywhere with its universal appeal, is currently on its North American tour, presented by Prather Entertainment Group. This version follows closely to the original Broadway production; audiences will have an opportunity to see it staged using Jerome Robbins’ original direction and choreography, when it arrives at the Madison Theatre, Wednesday through Friday, April 10-12.
Robert L. Summers, a veteran of regional theater, commands the stage as Tevye. He stepped in December when the actor playing Tevye unexpectedly had to leave the show.
For Summers, it is a role he knows well. This is his third incarnation as Tevye, a character based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem.
A perennial hit since it first opened in 1964 with Zero Mostel, Fiddler on the Roof has enjoyed critical acclaim for bringing to the stage a poignant story about the enduring bonds of the family. Now, the national touring production once again shares Tevye’s wit and wisdom with the show’s many fans and new generations of
Since January, Summers has been sharing the life of Tevye and his family with audiences, both young and old, and enjoying every minute of it.
“I was 22 years old and in college when I first played Tevye,” Summers said. “I wasn’t married and didn’t have a family. I could kind of understand of him, but when I played him 28 years later in Wichita Kansas, I had lived a lot of life and Tevye took on a different meaning for me. I had spent 12 and half years in the Army by then, had gotten married and had three kids. A lot of things I didn’t understand about him, I’ve gotten to know and that has changed my
“There are so many layers to him, the highs, the lows, the love he has for his family. Even though he will sometimes complain about his family, he loves them unconditionally. Once I had kids, I began to see him in a different way than I had before.”
Tevye’s wrestling with the new customs of a younger generation is punctuated by that unforgettable score that weaves the haunting strains of “Sunrise, Sunset” and the rousing “If I Were A Rich Man” with the exuberant “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and triumphant “Tradition.”
When his daughters choose suitors who defy his idea of a proper match, Tevye comes to realize, through a series of incidents that are at once comic and bittersweet, that his children will begin traditions of their own. At the story’s close, the villagers of Anatevka are forced to leave their homes and even the sturdy mores that have guided everyday life begin to crumble. Paradoxically, it is the enforced loss of the rigid traditions and home life that Tevye has tried so tenaciously to preserve that leads the family to reconcile and draw closer still.
“This is a show that resonates with everyone,” said Summers. “It may be about a Jewish community, but everyone has traditions and understands how families can be displaced. Those universal themes of love and hope are timeless and so pertinent to today. Especially since the housing market crash, a lot of people who have been displaced, and wonder what will happen next, can identify with what Tevye and his family experience. There is always that hope that things will turn around and everyone can relate to that message that things will turn around.”
Summers credits his cast for welcoming him into the role on such short notice. “We have an incredible cast, up and down,” he said. “I can’t say enough about them and and am proud to be a part of this show. They are a great group.”
Audiences have responded overwhelming to this production and have been lavish in their praise, according to Summers. “One lady said it was life changing,” he related. “We’ve been getting huge ovations, the people really seem to love it, which is so heartwarming to see. Our job is to entertain. To be able to get that kind of response means that we’ve done our job well.”
Fiddler on the Roof
Wednesday, April 10, 7 p.m.; Thursday, April 11, 8 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 2 and 8 p.m. $39-$59.
Madison Theatre at Molloy College, Hempstead Ave., Rockville Centre.
(516) 678-5000 ext. 7715 or www.madisontheatreny.org.