It’s a tradition! Chaim Topol in Fiddler on the Roof – Last Chance tour!

Topol and the Company
Photo credit: © 2009, JOAN MARCUS

I give this musical play an "A+" on Ellen's Entertainment Report Card.

Fiddler on the Roof has closed in Portland, Oregon -- but you can still see it in the following cities. Next performances in 2010 are scheduled for: Atlanta, GA (Mar 16, 2010 - Mar 21, 2010), Appleton, WI (May 11, 2010 - May 15, 2010), Seattle, WA (Nov 27 - May 30, 2010), Philadelphia, PA (opening on June 5, 2010).

For more information, visit this link:

Tuesday’s opening night performance of Fiddler on the Roof started with just that: a fiddler performing on top of a small house, center-stage. Out walked Chaim Topol as Tevye (he won a Golden Globe in 1971 for the same role in the film adaptation), earning a rousing round of applause from the Keller Auditorium crowd.

He looked up at the musician overhead and mused, breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience (as he did throughout the play), “A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, 'Why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous?' Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!”

Then, the large cast of townspeople launched into “Tradition,” one of many memorable musical numbers sprinkled throughout this classic story, based on the tales of Sholem Aleichem. When the song ended, Tevye said: “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as, as ... as a fiddler on the roof!”

Yet, during the course of the story, Tevye discovers that some traditions should be reconsidered, and that change is inevitable. Indeed, the fiddler is ever-present throughout the story, playing a song of change and symbolizing the instability of life.

The story takes place in a Russian village during the revolution of 1905. Although life in Anatevka is simple, traditional and largely insulated, news of change abroad begins to filter into town and affect the youth—including Tevye the milkman’s five eligible daughters. As the three eldest girls embrace modern ideas about love and marriage, Tevye and wife Golde face difficult decisions.

While Fiddler is full of Tevye’s homespun philosophy and universal questions, it’s also rife with humor and boisterous song and dance. Topol leads the cast with his earnest, lovable portrayal of Topol, perhaps most endearing in his apostrophic conversations with God. Although the Israeli native isn’t quite as spry as he once was, his energetic dancing and animated performance belie his 73 years. And, considering this is his farewell tour, Topol really seemed to give it his all.

The rest of the cast was solid as well, with a standout performance by Susan Cella as the acerbic Golde. Throw in a live orchestra, dynamic set design and spot-on choreography, and Fiddler on the Roof is a first-class production that the whole family will appreciate.

Fiddler on the Roof is playing at the Keller Auditorium through August 30.

Due to the illness of Ellen Kimball, this review was adapted from Boca Raton magazine's Chelsea Greenwood online review posted in 4/2009. Thanks, Chelsea.

Fiddler on the Roof, the Tony® Award-winning musical that has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its universal appeal, plays here in Portland, Oregon, through Sunday, August 30. Local audiences have this singular opportunity to see 73-year-old Chaim Topol, star of the original motion picture, in his final U.S. performance of the award-winning role that made him a legend in Fiddler on the Roof.

Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, Fiddler on the Roof has been lauded by critics again and again, and won the hearts of people all around the world. Filled with a rousing, heartwarming score, which includes “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” Fiddler on the Roof is a timeless classic.

No other musical has so magically woven music and dance into such an electrifying and unforgettable experience. You’ll laugh and cry at the story of life in the small Russian village of Anatevka. Relive a glorious tradition of the musical theatre with TOPOL’s farewell performance in Fiddler on the Roof.

Ellen's remarks:

My paternal grandfather was an immigrant from Vilna, Russia. I was born Jewish and this could be well be the story of our family. Regrettably, Grandpa Harry Kimball died quite young. I never knew him nor was I able to talk with him about his Russian history. My former husband and I saw Zero Mostel, Theodore Bikel and Herschel Bernardi in the role of Tevye. We were somewhat disappointed years ago with the announcement that the movie would be starring the unknown (to us) Israeli actor Chaim Topol. However, over the years, the beloved Topol has proved himself to be a fine actor. He also has had the longevity necessary to still be standing on stage in 2009! That is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself!

Fiddler on the Roof
On stage through Sunday, August 30, 2009
Tuesday-Friday at 7:30pm
Saturday at 2pm & 7:30pm
Sunday at 2pm & 7:30pm* *Please note special performance times on Sunday.

All performances are at the Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St at 3rd Ave, downtown Portland, Oregon. For tickets: In person: The Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers Street, Portland, OR 97214 By Phone: 503-241-1802 or toll-free 1-866-739-6737 (M-F 9a-5p)

Chaim Topol as Tevye
Photo credit: © 2009, JOAN MARCUS

Wednesday, August 26, 2009