A scene from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”
By Chung Ah-young
The Korean rendition of Broadway musical ``Fiddler on the Roof'' has proven the power of a good story, which is rarely found in recent extravagant musicals.
The musical raised its curtain at the National Theater of Korea last Friday, with much anticipation for the star-studded cast, including veteran actors Noh Joo-hyeon and Kim Jin-tae and rising star Shin Sung-rok.
The show takes place in a Jewish Russian village, Anatevka, in 1905, and focuses on Tevye, a milkman who lives by strong Jewish traditions, along with his five daughters and wife.
It deals with a heavy theme of Russia's crackdown on the Jewish community in a turbulent era but it unfolds with a light and cheerful touch with a more universal theme based on family relationships. The show gave a clear message of the shifting family values, which is still valid in current society.
The musical depicted the traditional role of the father, who on the outside seems strong but is vulnerable inside, which is a typical description of Korean fathers.
The musical began with a fiddler performing on the roof, which looked precarious, like life, a metaphor of conflicts between change and tradition, which will happen soon.
Tevye explained the customs of the Jewish people and their lives in their community. Leading a religious and peaceful life, he suddenly faced changes in his family through the unexpected marriage of his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, to a poor tailor, Motel Kamzoil, her friend since childhood. The family, through a matchmaker, had arranged a marriage to a rich man Lazar.
He was surprised by her refusal to the marriage, arranged by the family, but accepted it for her happiness. However, the second daughter, Hodel, becomes close to Perchik, a radical coming from Kiev, who is against tradition and advocates change, and fell in love with him. They promised to marry but Perchik had to return to Kiev for the revolution. Tevye was once again in shock when they made their own match without the father's consent. But Tevye blessed her decision to marry him.
Another daughter of his, Chava, fell in love with Fyedka, a Russian solider, and asked her father to allow the marriage. Again, Tevye reached deep into his soul, as the marriage outside the Jewish faith is a tradition he cannot disobey. Chava ran away with Fyedka to get married. Chava returns and tries to reason with him, but he refuses to speak to her and tells the rest of the family to consider her dead.
Meanwhile, the Russians' crackdown on the Jewish village gets stronger until they ordered them to leave the town in three days. The family left the village and were dispersed to various regions.
In the tumultuous era, marked by changes conflicting with tradition, depicted through the daughters' marriages, Tevye played the central role to balance the entire show.
Kim Jin-tae, who took the role of Tevye in the 1998 version, well portrayed warm-hearted fatherhood, with his grave voice describing his inner solitude and outer sturdiness.
In the musical, which focused more on the storyline and the emotions between the lines, rather than choreography and musical numbers, Kim is the perfect actor in the more theatrical elements. In particular, he communicates with the audience through his monologues.
Its musical numbers, such as ``Sunrise, Sunset'' and ``If I Were A Rich Man'' were catchy and escalated the dramatic atmosphere.
The musical's first version, produced in 1964, was more about Jewish values. But the Korean rendition, the latest revival of the original work, focuses on the relationships in the show and not Judaism.
The musical premiered on Broadway in 1964, becoming the first musical to surpass the 3,000 performance mark.
The Korean rendition was directed by Gustavo Zajac, who choreographed ``Nine,'' the musical in Tokyo and on Broadway with Antonio Banderas. He was the associate staging director of ``Fiddler on the Roof'' on Broadway in 2004.
The Broadway production has won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography.
The musical will be on stage until Dec. 27 at the National Theater of Korea. For more information, call (02) 501-7888 or visit www.musicalthefiddlerontheroof.co.kr.