YIDDISH FIDDLER MOVES UPTOWN

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.

TRANSCRIPT

> 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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT US AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

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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