Yiddish ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is headed off-Broadway
I’m going to be a yenta and give you the plotke on “Fiddler on the Roof.”
The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s revival down at the Museum of Jewish Heritage is headed uptown to off-Broadway’s Stage 42, formerly the Little Shubert Theatre, where it will begin performances in January.
The production, performed in Yiddish, is an unlikely smash. Much of the credit goes to Joel Grey, the Broadway legend who’s become a top-tier director. (The 2011 revival of “The Normal Heart” he directed with George C. Wolfe found rich humanity amid Larry Kramer’s polemics.)
When Grey told me he’d be directing “Fiddler” in Yiddish, I thought, “Well, you gotta have a gimik.” But his sensitive production has audiences and critics sobbing. One critic burst into tears during the opening number (non-hysterics usually hold out until “Sunrise, Sunset”). The production, which extended four times, will end its sold-out run at the museum on Dec. 30.
The cast, headed by Steven Skybell (Tevye) and Jackie Hoffman (a hilarious Yente), will also make the move uptown.
I don’t think the Folksbiene has had a hit like this since the theater company was founded in 1915, although old-timers say Joseph Rumshinsky’s “The Broken Violin” was a pretty tough ticket in 1916.
Producer Hal Luftig is moving “Fiddler.” His faith in the show’s commercial prospects is so strong that he angled for a Broadway theater, but nothing was available.
The theater formerly known as the Little Shubert, which is owned by the Big Shuberts, has a troubled history. Built in 2002, its bookings usually run to such second-tier shows as 2015’s short-lived, psychedelic dance musical “Trip of Love.”
But all a theater needs to be back in the swing of things is a hit, and “Fiddler on the Roof” is definitely that. It just may be the show that lifts the shiltn off the Little Shubert.
In case you haven’t guessed, shiltn means curse, which gives me an excuse to pass along my favorite: “May you be like a chandelier and hang by day and burn by night.”
It’s pretty good in English, but it’s positively bone-chilling in Yiddish.
Jerry Mitchell, the director of “Kinky Boots,” has found his next show. He staged a workshop last week of “Becoming Nancy,” and a source tells me that investors are “dutifully lining up with their checkbooks.”
Mitchell hopes to have the show ready for Broadway next season.
Based on Terry Ronald’s YA novel, “Becoming Nancy” is about a boy who’s cast as the heroine of his high-school production of “Oliver!” Questions about his sexuality ensue as his friendship deepens with the handsome captain of the football team who plays Bill Sikes.
The setting is a working-class neighborhood of London in the late ’70s. A source says the musical has the “feel-good vibe” of “Kinky Boots,” “Billy Elliot” and the movie “Love, Simon.”
The score, by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the team who wrote additional songs for 2004’s “Mary Poppins” musical, is in the style of pop music circa 1979.
Debbie Harry, Sting and Kate Bush all make cameos in the story. They’re just characters, of course, but wouldn’t it be fun if Mitchell could entice the real ones to come round now and then to play themselves?
You can hear Michael Riedel weekdays on “Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning” on WOR radio 710.
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