Timeless tale

Fan favorite Fiddler on the Roof breaks with tradition at Bass Concert Hall

Beloved Fiddler on the Roof breaks with tradition at Bass Concert Hall

Fiddler on the Roof national tour
The cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Joan Marcus

There are some stories that never become obsolete, including those about parents and children not seeing eye to eye. Fiddler on the Roof, the story of a poor milkman raising five daughters in 1905 pre-revolutionary Russia, has been an audience favorite since it debuted on Broadway in 1964, eventually winning a Tony Award for Best Musical the following year. The movie adaptation won several Academy Awards and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy in 1972. Now, the trials of Tevye will be told once again for Austin fans at Bass Concert Hall April 2-7.

In Fiddler, a father’s wish for his daughters to marry well (and within the Jewish faith) is challenged when they instead choose their mates for love. With iconic songs including “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Sunrise Sunset," and “Tradition,” the show leaves audiences dancing in the aisles and humming along.

“The songs are so iconic. Even if you don’t think you know Fiddler on the Roof, you likely know at least a handful of the songs. If you know “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani, then you know of “If I Were a Rich Man,” explains Michael Uselmann, music director and conductor for the national tour.

Uselmann, who is responsible for maintaining the musical integrity of the show and conducting the 10-piece orchestra nightly, says he was enamored with musical theater from a young age, and discovered a knack for orchestrating and arranging music in high school.

He admits this version of Fiddler might surprise some audiences. “It has everything they know and love, but it’s less of your typical big Broadway orchestra sound and more of a raucous band you might have heard at a wedding in Russia in the early 1900s. So, it’s exciting,” he says. “The way that our show is directed is in a style of realism that sometimes isn’t used with an older musical.”

He says the opening number “Tradition” is his favorite musical moment in the show. “A minute into it, the whole orchestra joins in, and there’s some fantastic choreography that goes along with it. It’s an incredible opening number. It’s exhilarating.”

As for the story, Fiddler may be based at the turn of the 20th century but the theme of children breaking tradition against their parents’ wishes is timeless. “Whether it’s 1905 or 2019,  it’s a story that will always be relevant," Uselmann says. "Cultures across the world identify with it, and everyone can see some version of themselves in the characters and situations.”

You can experience this revival of the beloved classic at Bass Concert Hall April 2-7.