We are, of course, in awe of 91 year old Sheldon Harnick, lyricist for one of the greatest of all Broadway musicals, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Fifty one years after it first opened, “Fiddler” was revived last night to cheers and raves.
The timing couldn’t be better. “Fiddler” was about the ousting of the Jewish population of Russia circa 1905-1915. “Fiddler” tells what has become a universal story. (My own maternal grandmother’s story is almost note for note from the “Fiddler” plot.)
Now in 2015 “Fiddler” resonates for the vast immigration and emigration issues haunting the world– from the Syrian refugees to Donald Trump suggesting we block Muslims from entering the U.S. Imagine if Trump had been in power in 1905.
“I don’t want Donald Trump to see the show,” Harnick said last night at the post-premiere celebration at Gotham Hall.
“I think he might learn from it,” I suggested to Harnick, who is one youthful 91. (“I think I’m dyslexic,” he said, “and that I’m 19.”)
“You’re right, he should see the show,” Harnick corrected himself. “He could play the Constable.” That’s the Russian military man who informs the people of Anatevka they have three days to sell their homes and vacate their premises.
Harnick wrote the now famed lyrics to the show’s songs– which are all hits, one after another. It’s kind of remarkable that the score has somehow now grown even in its genius, from “Tradition” to “If I Were a Rich Man” to “Sunrise Sunset” and “Do You Love Me?” as well as the title song. All those memorable turns of phrase came from Harnick. Bravo!
“My favorite moment tonight was at the end of If I Were a Rich Man, when the audience just exploded into applause and appreciation,” Harnick told me.
Quite an opening night crowd, by the way: Candice Bergen and husband Marshall Rose, Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor, Tony Shalhoub, Alan Alda, George Takei, Judith Light, Joel Grey, Bernadette Peters, Molly Ringwald, Michael Cerveris, Ruthie Ann Miles (from the King and I), Bob Saget, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeffrey Tambor all turned out for director Bartlett Sher’s sophisticated production and Danny Burstein and Jessica Hecht leading a knockout cast.
The songs, the Jerome Robbins choreography– it’s all sublime.
“Fiddler” is back. Donald Trump, come take a look!