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‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at Cobb Centre

2010 March 17

Harvey Fierstein and Company--Photo Credit Joan Marcus

Harvey Fierstein as Tevye? Could the same man known for penning “La Cage aux Folles” and playing a drag queen in his Tony Award-winning play “Torch Song Trilogy”  play Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”?

Actually, yes.  Sometimes, he goes a little overboard with his mugging, and he doesn’t always live in the moment, but he is a believable and funny Tevye.

So, it’s not Fierstein’s fault that there is something not quite right with this “Fiddler on the Roof,” now playing at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

The play tells the tale of Jewish life in Tzarist Russia, but this cast doesn’t seem to live the tale. It never quite comes to life. The acting and singing are very good, especially that of Chava (Deborah Grausman), whose passion rips at the heart. However, the show lacks drama and electricity.

For example, in what should have been the most dramatic scene in the play in which the Cossacks come to ransack the town of Anatevka, neither the audience nor the actors seemed to be scared. The Cossacks threatened and battered the town, but that scene works a lot better when they ransack and plunder the village. When done right, that scene can put the fear of death into anyone watching it.

Based on a book by famed Yiddish writer Shalom Aleichem, “Fiddler on the Roof” won nine Tony Awards when it opened in 1964. It was one of the longest running shows on Broadway and was revived in 2004. Fierstein starred in the revival after Alfred Molina left.

So, should you see the show at the Cobb Energy Center? To alter a line from the song “Matchmaker:” It’s a nice show, a good show, true? True.  But if you want to see a great version of this show, you’ll have to see the movie or a different live production.

“Fiddler on the Roof” plays at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre through Sunday, March 21.

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