It's also one of the most boring performances ever committed to disc. That's not to say that it's any better in the theater; it isn't. Molina gives one of the most begrudging star turns I've ever seen and he has replicated it for the recording. His control and restraint seem dedicated to making this the ultimate recording of a classic Broadway score, as if he doesn't want anything to be spoiled musically. (Since Molina's not a great singer to begin with, I'm not sure why he bothered.)
Unfortunately, in refusing to imbue his sung or spoken lines with any sense of liveliness or even a slight variation from a ho-hum attitude toward life, love, and God Molina fails to capture the essence of this character; his delivery of "If I Were a Rich Man" is especially dull. Molina's inability to bring anything but brief flashes of surface anger to the role when Tevye faces the very breakdown of his way of life is quite shocking. He doesn't seem to understand or care about the character and, therefore, neither do we. Zero Mostel's approximate, messy, very real performance on the indispensable original cast recording is preferable any day of the week.
The problems with Molina and the rest of this Fiddler on the Roof can be traced to the production's ineffectual director, David Leveaux. Having proven with last year's Nine that he has no affinity for American musical theater, Leveaux should have been the last choice on anyone's list to direct this landmark Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick-Joseph Stein title. You don't need to see the show for proof of this; just listen to the PS Classics recording. The bland musical direction is by Kevin Stites, who leads a thin-sounding orchestra and a bored-sounding cast.
A couple of key performances play better here than they do on stage. Randy Graff seems more emotionally involved as Golde. John Cariani, without his spastic body movements, is almost bearable, and his song "Miracle of Miracles" comes across pretty well. But though Robert Petkoff's Perchik is riveting in the theater, his thin voice doesn't carry "Now I Have Everything." The performances of Sally Murphy, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Tricia Paoluccio as Tevye's three eldest also seemed more nuanced and colorful on stage than on disc.
The best thing that can be said about this recording is that it's an almost complete document of the score: All of "Tradition," the "To Life" dance, most of the wedding ceremony (except for the second dance section for Perchick and Hodel that leads into the pogrom), Tevye's talks with God, and the finale music ("The Leave-taking") are here. But that doesn't make up for what Leveaux, Molina, and company fail to provide: the entertaining sense of vitality that's very much present on the 1964 cast album. As of this writing, that's still the only recording of Fiddler on the Roof you really need.
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