YIDDISH FIDDLER MOVES UPTOWN

May 14, 2019 at 5:00 am

A Yiddish production of “Fiddler On The Roof” gets an extended run and a new home. Tonight, the show’s director, Tony and Academy-Award winner Joel Grey, tells us how he brought tradition back to this Broadway classic.

Aired on May 13, 2019.

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>>> TALK ABOUT NEW LIFE INTO OLD
TRADITIONS.
THE FIRST AND OLD YIDDISH
LANGUAGE VERSION OF ONE OF THE
MOST CELEBRATED MUSICALS OF ALL
TIME, "FIDDLER ON THE ROOF," WAS
A SOLD-OUT SENSATION WHEN IT HIT
THE STAGE LAST SUMMER.
AT FIRST THE SHOW WAS ONLY
SUPPOSED TO RUN FOR SEVEN WEEKS
AT THE MUSEUM OF JEWISH
HERITAGE.
IT RAN FOR ALMOST SIX MONTHS
WITH SOLD-OUT PERFORMANCES NIGHT
AFTER NIGHT.
NOW DUE TO THE UNPRECEDENTED
SUCCESS OF THE NATIONAL YIDDISH
THEATER FOKLSBIENE PRODUCTION,
IT HAS EMCELEBRATED UPTOWN TO
MORE COMMERCIAL AT STAGE 42 WITH
AN EXTENDED RUN NOW THROUGH
SEPTEMBER 1.
IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT.
>> A FIDDLER AFN DAKH.
[ SPEAKING YIDDISH ]
§
§
>> ACADEMY AND TONY AWARD
WINNING DIRECTOR JOEL GREY HAS
DIRECTED THIS CRITICALLY
ACCLAIMED REVIVAL.
IT'S SO NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.
>> GREAT TO SEE YOU.
>> LET'S GO BACK TO THE
CONVERSATION YOU AND I HAD ABOUT
THIS BEFORE IT WAS BEGINNING ITS
FIRST RUN.
AND WE TALKED ABOUT YOUR
EXPECTATIONS.
AS WE KNOW, PROBABLY EXCEEDED
MOST PEOPLE'S EXPECTATIONS
COMMERCIALLY, IN ANY EVENT.
HOW ABOUT YOU AND YOUR
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE PRODUCTION
AND WHAT YOU WANTED IT TO SOUND
LIKE AND LOOK LIKE AND TO FEEL
LIKE.
>> WELL, I HAD NO EXPECTATION OF
IT GOING THIS DISTANCE.
I THOUGHT IT WOULD VALUABLE,
ENTERTAINING, INTERESTING,
CURIOUS, AND ULTIMATELY MOVING.
AND THOSE WERE ALL THE THINGS
THAT THEY SEEM TO ACCOMPLISH,
PLUS HAVING AN AUDIENCE THAT WAS
NOT JEWISH.
THAT DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE FACT
THAT IT WAS IN YIDDISH, AND THAT
YOU REMEMBER CORRECTLY, I DON'T
SPEAK YIDDISH.
>> THAT'S WHAT I WAS GOING TO
ASK YOU.
YOU AND I TALKED ABOUT THIS.
AS YOU WERE PREPARING TO DIRECT
THIS, YOU DON'T SPEAK YIDDISH.
>> NO.
BUT I KNEW, I KNEW THE ENTIRE
SENSIBILITY OF THE IMMIGRANT AND
THE HISTORY OF THE STORIES.
AND I ALWAYS LOVED THE MUSICAL
AND KNEW IT VERY, VERY WELL.
I MEAN, I KNEW THE DYNAMICS OF
THE CHARACTERS.
>> AND YOU LOOK TO YOUR OWN
BACKGROUND.
YOUR FAMILIAR, MICKEY KATZ,
MARVELOUS PERFORMER.
>> A GREAT JEWISH COMEDIAN, BUT
IT WAS NOT SPOKEN IN MY HOUSE
THAT WAS HIS JOB.
>> SO WHY, THEN, DO YOU THINK
BEFORE WE LOOK AHEAD TO THE NEXT
PRODUCTION, LOOKING BACK, AND
ALL OF THE SUDDEN YOU START
SEEING FULL HOUSES, AND PEOPLE
TALKING ABOUT THIS.
PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT YIDDISH
SPEAKERS, BY THE WAY.
>> OR NOT JEWISH.
>> OR NOT JEWISH.
RIGHT.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WAS THAT
GRABBED IT AND KEPT THEM COMING
BACK AND ESSENTIALLY SAID OKAY,
WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO EXTEND
THIS NOW.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT HAPPENED?
>> I THINK IT SPEAKS TO
BELONGING AND TO WHAT'S GOING ON
IN THE WORLD TODAY IN TERMS OF
IMMIGRANTS AND HOMELESS PEOPLE
AND JUST, I MEAN, TALK ABOUT
ANTI-SEMITISM, IT WAS ON THE
FRONT PAGE OF THE "NEW YORK
TIMES" ARTS SECTION ABOUT AN
ENORMOUS SHOW IN LONDON ABOUT
THE HISTORY OF ANTI-SEMITISM AND
OF IDEAS ABOUT JEWS THAT HAVE
BEEN A MESS FROM TIME
IMMEMORIAL.
>> YOU AND I TALKED ABOUT THIS.
THE NOTION OF OTHERNESS, THAT
YOU LOOK AT "FIDDLER" AND YOU
TALK ABOUT -- PEOPLE SAYING
WHERE DO I BELONG?
WHY AM I LOOKED AT AS AN OTHER
FROM PEOPLE, AND WILL I EVER BE
ANYTHING OTHER THAN AN OTHER.
>> GOOD QUESTION.
I THINK PEOPLE WHO ARE OTHER,
IT'S DEEP IN THEIR DNA, AND
IT'S -- IT'S A HUMAN PROBLEM.
PROBABLY HAS ALWAYS BEEN.
WE HAD SO MANY PEOPLE RESPONDING
TO IT DOWNTOWN WHO DIDN'T EVEN
BOTHER LOOKING AT THE
SUPERTITLES.
>> AND WE SHOULD MENTION THAT
FOR PEOPLE.
THERE ARE SUPERTITLES UP THERE
IN ENGLISH.
>> ABSOLUTELY.
I FIND PEOPLE TELL ME ALL THE
TIME, I LOOKED A LITTLE BIT, AND
THEN I JUST BECAME SO ENTHRALLED
WITH THE HUMANNESS OF EACH OF
THESE PEOPLE.
AND PEOPLE SEE THEIR RELATIVES.
AND I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT JEWISH
PEOPLE.
I'M TALKING ABOUT ITALIANS AND
ARMENIANS.
>> THERE IS A UNIVERSEALITY TO
THIS STORY.
>> ESCH HAS HAD SOME EXPERIENCE
OF BEING OTHER AT SOME POINT.
>> IT'S FUNNY THAT PEOPLE HAVE
SAID TO YOU, I WASN'T EVEN
REALLY LOOKING AT THE
SUPERTITLES.
I WANT TO READ YOU ONE OF THE
REVIEWS FROM THE HOLLYWOOD
REPORTER, AND BY THE WAY,
MARVELOUS REVIEWS.
FROM THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER SAID
WHAT'S UNCANNY IS HOW ENTIRELY
ORGANIC THE YIDDISH TRANSLATIONS
SOUND.
§
>> THEY'RE WEDDED TO THE
MELODIES AND THE LYRICS, AS IF
THE SONGS WERE CONCEIVED THAT
WAY.
AND AT SOME POINT IN TIME YOU
DON'T EVEN REALIZE THAT YOU'RE
WATCHING AND LISTENING IN
YIDDISH.
>> RIGHT.
>> DID THAT SURPRISE YOU?
>> YES, BECAUSE IN A LOT OF
WAYS, YIDDISH HAS BEEN SORT OF
FROWNED UPON AS A POLYGLOT
LANGUAGE THAT DIDN'T REALLY HAVE
RESPECT.
AND IT'S RICH.
>> HAROLD PRINCE, WHO HAD
PRODUCED THE ORIGINAL ON THIS
CAME OUT AND I DON'T CARE HOW
MANY TIMES YOU'VE SEEN THIS, GO
SEE IT NOW AND YOU'LL FEEL LIKE
YOU'RE SEEING IT FOR THE VERY
FIRST TIME.
>> AND HE DOESN'T SPEAK YIDDISH,
REALLY.
>> REALLY?
>> BELIEVE ME.

§
>> IT'S A PLEASURE TO TALK WITH
YOU.
I'M SO DELIGHTED THAT THIS IS
DONE SO WELL.
>> I'M SO HAPPY TOO.
THANKS FOR INVITING ME BACK.
>> OH, YOU CAN COME BACK ANY
TIME YOU WANT.
>> ALL RIGHT.
>> YOU JUST WALK IN THE DOOR AND
SIT DOWN AND WE'LL TALK.
>> NEXT WEEK?
>> THURSDAY AT 2:00.
THANKS, JOEL.
YOU BE WELL.
AND A REMINDER FOR YOU FOLKS OUT
THERE THAT "FIDDLER ON THE ROOF"
IN YIDDISH IS PLAYING AT STAGE
42 THEATERS WITH SUPERTITLES.
I LEARNED A NEW TERM.
SUPERTITLES THROUGH SEPTEMBER 1.
UNLESS PERHAPS THEY RENEW IT
AGAIN FOR AN EVEN LONGER TIME.
>> I WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED.
>> AND THEN WE GET YOU BACK
AGAIN.
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Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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