At 45, Israeli actor and theatre director Yehezkel Lazarov may at first seem too young to star as Tevye in the national tour of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which Broadway in Tucson is bringing to Centennial Hall for a one-week run beginning April 9. Audiences have gotten used to Tevye portrayed as an older man — the late Theodore Bikel was 85 when he played the role in Tucson in 2010 — but actually 45 “would be the perfect age for a religious man with five daughters, with the oldest perhaps 18 or 20,” says Lazarov, who himself has three daughters.
In this production of the beloved musical, Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher “brings the story from a very true place,” Lazarov told the AJP in a phone interview, explaining that Sher asks the actors “not to make the characters caricatures, and find a true voice.”
For decades, audiences around the world have responded to the story’s universal themes. Sher’s modern interpretation emphasizes this, Lazarov says. “It tries to show that we’re still in the situation, we’re still in the same problem. We still have citizens who don’t find their home; we still have a lot of people that are citizens that are asking to leave their home, and have no rights.
“It’s important for [Sher] and for us, to make as big a circle as we can make,” he says.
Lazarov sees “Fiddler” as a spiral with three rings, the first being a man who has a monologue or dialogue with God, “which is very intimate, very personal.” Then it moves out to the family, to the love stories of the daughters, and what Tevye goes through, being asked each time to compromise his beliefs. The third circle goes “into the society, the relationships in his community, which again hopefully the audience will understand it’s not only the Jewish community, it’s about everybody.”
“These are the three rings which I love watching happening every night,” he says.
For Lazarov, the story is also deeply personal, something he says he was slow to realize.
When the tour started in October, “I didn’t know how close I am to this thing; I didn’t know how the story is actually a part of my roots.
“Three weeks ago my grandmother died in Israel. She was very religious, my grandmother and my grandfather were very religious, and my parents, and me, myself, I had my own monologues to God when I was a kid, this is one part of it. But after she died, I actually understood that she comes from this little place in Russia, this little village in Russia, and they were escaping from pogroms, walking through deserts with camels, with donkeys, 11 brothers and sisters, with their whole community, traveling to Israel early in the last century.
“It suddenly hit me, in the middle of the show, understanding how much this story that I’m telling every day, actually is deeply part of my roots, part of my own story.”
For tickets to “Fiddler on the Roof,” visit www.broadwayintucson.com. Discounts are available for students, seniors 65+ and military.