I wrote enthusiastically
a couple of weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal about the new Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, which I found both convincing and moving. My critical brethren, however, varied widely in their views of the show, and not a few of them found the tone of the production to be insufficiently Jewish. This struck me as wrongheaded–especially since some of the critics in question were about as Jewish as pastrami on white with mayo–and I resolved to write something about it. Then I saw that Blake Eskin of Nextbook, an online magazine about “Jewish literature, culture and ideas,” had beaten me to the counterpunch:
Peter Marks of the Washington Post, whose critique of the ensemble’s pronunciation of mazel tov places him firmly in the chorus of authenticity-seekers, suggests a deeper reason for their fierce disapproval. “In the secular Jewish home of my childhood, about the closest we ever came to spiritual sustenance was Fiddler on the Roof,” he writes. The original cast album was in heavy rotation on the Marks family hi-fi; his father sang “If I Were a Rich Man” in the car; his brother played Tevye at summer camp. “Anyone expecting an experience that reenergizes a connection stretching back four decades will be sorely disappointed,” he says.
For Marks, I suspect, and for his contemporaries weaned on Fiddler, the real problem with this production is not its thin Yiddish flavor, but its failure as ritual, its inability to trigger warm memories of childhood. It’s as if he’s returned to his old bedroom, found a new blanket on the bed, and decided that the mattress isn’t as cozy as it once was. The problem is, it will never be as comfortable as the one you remember….
Read the whole thing here, please. I couldn’t have put it better. Now I needn’t try.