"Do You Love Me?" is one of the most famous songs from the Fiddler on the Roof score. I've seen the movie more than once. I saw the previous Broadway revival. I never got tears in my eyes during that number until I experienced Danny Burstein doing it.
The "Tevye's Dream" scene is another highlight. Tevye is sweetly manipulative here, conning his wife that a dead relative came to him in a dream with a message about their daughter's engagement. I've seen Danny onstge in three Broadway musicals. That number crystallizes one of the things that makes him a master as his craft. There's high comedy in the number. He's physically more limber than Mostel probably was in the original cast. And he's more limber than Alfred Molina and Harvey Fierstein were. Danny gives Tevye a touch of Groucho Marx in "Tevye's Dream" as he wears nightclothes in bed with Golde, his wife. He reminded me of Groucho in 1933's Duck Soup.
Maybe because I'm older now, but I never realized how much separation there is in Fiddler on the Roof. Children separate from parents. People separate from the strict confines of religious and cultural tradition. Jews are forced to separate from their homes and from their land. The play opens with the lively and mirthful "Tradition" number. Traditions and customs are celebrated. Later, we see the dark side of the bright number. One daughter has fallen in love with man not of her roots. He's not a Jew. This causes a heartbreaking and angry rift in her family. Keep in mind this action takes place in 1905. When I got to New York City in 1985, I worked at a local TV station. Three of us on a morning show staff were chatting about relationships during our lunch break. Two us gentiles and one Jewish guy who worked on the technical crew. He was in his 30s and one of the funniest people on the crew. However, it wasn't so funny when he bluntly said that if his daughter married outside the faith, she'd no longer be his daughter. He loved her but to wed a non-Jew was forbidden. 1905. 1985. Tradition.
Danny Burstein is just so right for the lead role. And that part is not easy. Tevye is onstage a lot with a range of emotions that goes from funny and bewildered to caustic and intolerant. You relate to him. The themes of Fiddler on the Roof are universal and still relevant. There's rising anti-Semitism in the Russian town and the Jews are evicted from Anatevka. Some will seek a new life in America. Look at this year's news headlines. Syrian refugees. Anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S.A. This is a relevant musical. I saw Danny Burstein last year in the revival of Cabaret. He played the Jewish shopkeeper who has a romance with a German woman who's not Jewish. They're in the Berlin of the early 1930s with Nazism on the rise. There's anti-Semitism in the city and Jews are being evicted. Before that, I saw him as Luther Billis in the excellent first revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific. He redefined that role with his brilliant performance, bringing out a previously untapped depth, toughness and complexity in the character. Danny is quite a performer.
If you're in New York City and you want to take in a play, please consider Fiddler on the Roof. Here's a short ad for it.
Fiddler on the Roof opened December 20th at the Broadway Theatre, located on Broadway at 53rd Street in New York City.