Keeping Up With Tradition: Review of Fiddler on the Roof

Lights dimmed on a crowded auditorium, a hush gradually befalling those who watched the curtained stage. Silence reared its head as thick, blue curtains swept away from each other, revealing a painted background of a night sky. A small house, proudly built by Brooklyn Tech students, stood in the right corner of the stage. A lone actor sat upon its roof, a violin poised in his hands as his bow made graceful strokes across his instrument, a tune being played so gently, so carefully that it was sure to stick in the minds of those who listened.

The rendition of Fiddler on the Roof was so well-practiced and so well done that it stole the breaths away of those who went to see it. Much care was placed into the development of the play, hours upon hours of rehearsals taking up the time of many actors, musicians, and singers. This was tremendously shown through the powerful voices of the actors and actresses; the way they sang was indistinguishable from the actors of the actual theater performance. The songs were so catchy, and rhythmically pleasing that many students found themselves singing If I Were a Rich Man, or Tradition weeks after.

The plotline is centered around the small town of Anatevka, located in Imperial Russia, governed by the ancient Jewish rules of tradition in times of turbulence. Tevye, one of the protagonists and father of five daughters, attempts to hold these traditions in changing times, even with the outside influence of other men who seek three of his daughters’ hands in marriage. Each daughter weds a man who strays further and further from the rules of tradition, and Tevye must deal with these choices, even though he may not like it.

So what does the Fiddler have to do with anything? He only makes three appearances in the entirety of the play, either perched precariously on a roof, or dancing around whilst playing his violin. The Fiddler represents tradition in a world that keeps changing, being the sole thing that the people of Anatevka depend on. Without it, they would topple off this so-called ‘roof’, for they would not survive without tradition keeping them strong. This meaning explains why the Fiddler followed Tevye at the end of the play, when the Tsar ordered all the Jews to leave Anatevka: they took their rules of tradition with them.

In a way, the themes from the musical could also be applied to modern society. As technology progresses, and newer generations become involved in different traditions that come with changing times, older generations may not always like this. It depends on the way people perceive ‘change’. Is it good or bad? While some may want to grasp the traditions that governed the past, others may want to push past this and embrace new customs.

Andrew Ajaka, who played Motel, said “The themes found in Fiddler on the Roof are so important because of their timeless universality. They will always be relevant to people all across the world”.

This is seen within many families and through the protests that occur for LGBTQ or women’s rights. The question of whether or not society should be accommodating to new ideals regarding sexuality or equality is something to consider as times are changing.

As Madelaine Lebetkin, who played Golde, mentioned “My experience in Fiddler on the Roof was challenging because of the authenticity that the beautiful and poignant story requires, and rewarding because of the knowledge that Golde’s story and countless others have been told. Golde was one of the toughest characters I’ve ever had the privilege to portray because she is a complex person who represents the lives of many.”

Though there are those who accept these views without a single doubt, others may not be as willing to broaden their own horizon.

Fiddler on the Roof was most certainly worth the watch, being one of Tech’s musicals that simply blew everyone away with the stroke of a violin.

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