When Arena Stage invited my family to see their production of Fiddler on the Roof, I knew I wanted to take my kids. We danced in our seats, we laughed, we cried–we loved every minute!
In my college days, I actually worked on the costumes on a production of Fiddler. After seeing many rehearsals, its classic songs are forever etched in my music bank. Of course I knew Tevye’s “If I Were A Rich Man” and the popular “Matchmaker” that his daughter sings. I can never hear the word matchmaker without that song running through my head.
Based on stories written by Shalom Alechem, Fiddler revolves a Jewish community in a small Russian town in the 1800s. Our main character is Tevye, a Dairyman who has five daughters–all of which he must find good husbands. Tradition is important in their community. Everyone has a role they must play. Unfortunately or fortunately, their way of life is changing. Tevye and his family struggle to find the balance between tradition and their happiness. Amidst the family turmoil, the Russian government’s anti-Semitsm practices finds its way to their small town and changes their lives forever.
Pretty deep for a musical, right?
Arena Stage’s Fiddler was able to highlight the light moments to bring levity to such big themes. I loved Jonathan Hadary’s Tevye as soon as he walked on stage. In most productions, Tevye is played as a jolly jokester who adores his family. So when his daughter Chava falls in love with a Russian, Tevye’s reaction feels overly harsh. Instead, Hadary illustrates Tevye’s struggle between following tradition and his unconditional love for his daughters.
With such serious themes, what did our own kids think about the show? My husband and I felt that our 9-year-old daughter Sophia could handle the musical’s dark themes, but wasn’t sure about Jaxson, who’s 5 years old. We knew Jaxson could handle the dream sequence (there’s a ghost), but would the important discussions about family, faith, and anti-Semitism be too much for him? After some discussion, we decided to take him to see the show.
As an interracial family, we feel it’s important to discuss race openly–in a manner that our kids can understand. Before seeing Fiddler, we talked about some of the things they’d see in the show. I explained the tradition of matchmaking to them (to which Sophia declared how happy she was our family didn’t practice it). We discussed how some people didn’t like Jews just for their heritage and culture. I appreciated that Fiddler became a catalyst for such important conversations with Jaxson and Sophia.
Everyone’s favorite part of the show was the music, of course! My husband’s favorite is “Sunrise, Sunset” during the wedding scene. The kids preferred the toe tapping “To Life.” Jaxson couldn’t stop talking about the fiddler who sat on the “roof” at the opening of the show. My husband and I loved that the production was in round. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
Arena Stage’s Fiddler on the Roof made a lasting impression on the entire family.
Note: There is some violence (fight scenes) and a nightmare/dream sequence in the show, which might not be appropriate for young children. I knew my kids could handle it (with some help from us), but you know your kids.
Fiddler on the Roof has been extended until January 11. Don’t miss it! To purchase tickets, visit Arena Stage website or call the Sales Office at 202-488-3300.