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Off Bdwy’s “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish Becomes a Sleeper Hit



Yiddish Theater Hits Home Run with “Fiddler on the Roof” Production. Photo Credit: Jewish Voice

If you haven’t seen “Fiddler on the Roof” what are you waiting for? The timeless classic musical that has Jewish traditions and storytelling at its heart always makes for a great night out, and even for those who have seen the play enough times to recite the lines by memory, they can try something different and see the same play spoken in Yiddish.

The Shubert Organization finally has a smash for its Stage 42 in midtown, where you can see the version of “Fiddler on the Roof” directed by Joel Grey and spoken entirely in Yiddish. The West 42nd Street off-Broadway theater way west of Times Square brings in big crowds night after night, in a theater that’s seen flop after flop come and go over the past decade or so, according to the New York Post.

Time would have been limited for seeing the show, but the popularity and success of this Yiddish version of “Fiddler on the Roof” will be in the theater until this September. The show was slated originally for only 16 weeks of performances. The New York Post added that the theater may even keep running the show until demand decreases.

This show is a G-dsend for the theater that’s recently had such failures as a 1960s musical called “Trip of Love” and a country-western musical called “Lucky Guy” that the New York Post reports lost almost $3 million during its paltry run that lasted under two weeks.

During the previous summer, the show made its debut downtown at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where it almost immediately got attention and accolades. The first showed sold out in approximately one week, the New York Post reported, and the success has only increased from there.

The show was even considered for Broadway when the “Kinky Boots” producer got commercial rights and was seriously trying to put the show on the map on Broadway. Hal Luftwig couldn’t get any Broadway theater to buy into such a concept, an all-Yiddish play in a world-renowned theater district. Like motion pictures that come from big production companies, the plays that make it to Broadway tend to be the most reliably marketable. Even if the Yiddish version of “Fiddler on the Roof” is flawless art, Broadway theater owners weren’t ready to risk taking on a show that they thought would not interest tourists, or they worried that people would not want to read the English and Russian subtitles, almost like a foreign flick.

The director so far has shown how much staying power this show has though, and even if he still can’t make the leap to Broadway, he plans to take the show worldwide. While you’re traveling abroad in places like Australia, Berlin, or Shanghai, you may one day be able to see a Yiddish production of this famed musical. You could tell everyone that you saw it first in Manhattan’s Financial District, or near Times Square when the show started becoming more successful and found a theater.

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