Fiddler on the Roof: A Classic Performed at Paper Mill Playhouse

by Phyllis Mirabella
Paper Mill Playhouse

First premiering on Broadway in 1964, “Fiddler on the Roof” is a beloved musical. It led to many more iterations over the years—from high school productions to Broadway. 

My first exposure to Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman and father to five daughters, was played by the award-winning Topol in the 1971 television version. I was just a child when I first saw it, but it became an instant favorite. It is by Topol’s performance as Tevye that I measure all others. 

At the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ on Sunday, December 10, Tevye, played by Jordan Gelber, was once again singing about tradition, and wishing he was a rich man. His talking to God and the audience was poignant and funny. I was thrilled to see Topol so well represented. Gelber’s singing, humor, and sadness were impressively compelling. 

I felt Topol! 

Golde, Tevye’s wife of 25 years, played by Jill Abramovitz, was equally witty and soulful. We felt her pain to our core when their third daughter, Chava, played by Maya Jacobson, was disowned for marrying a non-Jew, Fredka, played by Andrew Alstat. And we breathed a huge sigh of relief when Tevye finally wished them well in the end. 

Lazar Wolf, beautifully played by Jeremy Radin, did a great job of playing the older man (too old) interested in marrying Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeiel, played by Alexandra Socha. Being in this modern age, I truly feared that she would have to go through with it! I was frantically rooting for Tzeiel and her love, Motel, played by Etai Benson. They were so convincing that they were meant to be together. The audience’s relief was palpable when tradition was broken and that they could marry for love. 

Perhaps the crowd’s favorite, Yente the Matchmaker, played by Suzanne Grodner, was perfect. Her rantings while collecting the apples off Golde’s table were very funny and absolutely on target. Another well-done scene was played by Susan Jacks as Grandma Tzeitel. In Tevye’s dream scene, Jacks’ acting and singing was not only fun and on point, but she showed incredible balance—on stilts, no less.

The violin is my favorite instrument, so I thoroughly enjoyed Derek Ege’s fiddle playing. He masterfully played the iconic music we all instantly recognized. The rendition perfectly reflected the metaphor for survival in a life of uncertainty—trying to play a tune while precariously balancing on the edge of a roof. 

The whole cast did this time-tested story true justice. The singing and dancing were an absolute treat. The joyous scene of the Tzeiel and Motel’s wedding made my heart happy. The heartbreaking moments of their wedding being disrupted, and the people of Anatevka being forced from their homes, were devastating to watch. 

I felt this play. I was enthralled and was carried into their lives. It was a night filled with a  roller coaster of emotions—just as in real life.

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