Most of my favorite musicals focus on family-related themes. There’s “Les Miserables” — which portrays a mother’s sacrifice for her sick child, “In the Heights” — which recounts the experience of immigrant parents who send their daughter to college, and “Fiddler on the Roof” — which follows the frustrations of parents whose three eldest daughters struggle to find independence in a world defined by tradition.
The touring production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is being performed through Sun, April 3, at ASU Gammage in Tempe — the venue at which I first enjoyed the musical with my husband and three children many years ago. For all the fun I’ve had at “mature-theme” musicals, this “family-friendly” show is still among my favorites.
Its characters, including Tevye (the papa) and Golda (the mama), are human in ways many parents find familiar. We wonder how to balance the past with the future. Ponder the meaning of family and home. Fret about fostering values without forcing them upon our children.
Tevye and his wife live in Tsarist Russia. The year is 1905, and the country is on the brink of revolution. They’ve got five daughters and little means. And the three eldest daughters are begining to develop, and act upon, their own ideas about life, love and the world around them.
The original production of “Fiddler on the Roof” opened on Broadway in 1964, and won nine of the 10 Tony Awards for which it was nominated in 1965 — including the award for best musical.
But its themes are every bit as relevant today. Think religious versus secular life. Economic hardship. Political upheaval. Think roles of women and men in society. Gossip. Keeping and breaking promises. Learning to start over.
“Fiddler on the Roof” is a feast of music and dance, full of rich color and texture on all sorts of levels. It’s tender and joyous, playful and profound.
You can take it all in without any appreciation for its more serious themes. Or you can embrace it as a vehicle for bittersweet reflection on the many ways our personal, family and collective histories are moving forward.
In either case, it’s a classic musical that no parent should miss — and a fine choice for folks eager to introduce their children to the magic of musical theater.
Note: Tickets for “Fiddler on the Roof” at ASU Gammage start under $25. The show runs through April 3 and there are both matinee and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday. Visit the ASU Gammage website to read reviews by “Gammage Goers” and learn about special offers and opportunities (including a “talkback” with cast/crew and a special brunch at the ASU University Club).
Coming up: Get your fringe on!, Reflections on a glass house, Tips for choosing a college theater program