Various Artists - Fiddler On The Roof (Music CD)

Release Date: 04 April 2011
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Director David Leveaux, in his liner notes to this, the cast album for the 2004 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, speaks of the necessity of revisiting the show 40 years after its inaugural production "as if we were staging" it "for the first time," rather than just trying to replicate the earlier triumph. It's a noble ambition and calls to mind previous attempts to re-imagine classic musicals, especially by British directors, such as Nicholas Hytner's celebrated hard-edged interpretation of Carousel in the early '90s. Fiddler on the Roof seems ripe for a similar approach that would strip it of its sentimentality and focus on the breakdown of Jewish culture in the face of modern secularism and the genocidal tendencies of the Russians who persecute the Jews in the story. The casting of British actor Alfred Molina, who is not known for musicals, in the lead role of Tevye, might have contributed to such an interpretation. In practice, however, Leveaux's Fiddler was greeted as a misstep, and in large part due to Molina. As heard here, he adopts an American accent and largely disappears into the story, giving nothing like the outsize performance of such predecessors as Zero Mostel. This choice is typical of a production that seems to withdraw from the ethnicity of the show in the name of making it seem more realistic, a choice that made many audience members complain it was "not Jewish enough." On disc, it simply isn't distinctive enough to compete with the original Broadway cast album of 1964, to which it inevitably must be compared. It may be, as a press release claims, "the most complete version of Fiddler available on CD," with a running time in excess of 72 minutes, and it boasts a newly written, if unnecessary, song, "Topsy-Turvy" (ably sung by Nancy Opel in the character of Yente, the Matchmaker), that marks a reunion for composer Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. But those are its chief attributes, which will appeal to completists. Fiddler on the Roof deserves to be reinterpreted some day; this version is not the reinterpretation it needs. ~ William Ruhlmann
Release Date: 04 April 2011

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Catalogue No: PS420