Growing up in her native Spain, Maite Uzal frequently listened to the cast recording of “Fiddler on the Roof” with her dad, who loved the musical, and together they would sing songs from the show. She never dreamed she would actually be in the show someday. Soon, Uzal will appear as Golde, the strong-willed wife of Tevye, a milkman, in the North American touring company of “Fiddler,” the Tony-nominated 2015 Broadway revival coming to Old National Centre‘s Murat Theatre in downtown Indianapolis, Oct. 1-6.
An iconic theatrical classic by Tony Award-nominee Joseph Stein and Pulitzer Prize-winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, “Fiddler” is directed by Tony Award-winner Bartlett Sher, choreographed by the acclimated Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, inspired by the original choreography of Jerome Robbins, and has musical direction by Ted Sperling.
It’s the heartwarming story of parents and children, husbands and wives, tradition, persecution, love and laughter and filled with recognizable Broadway hits including “To Life (L’Chaim!),” “If I Were A Rich Man,” “Sunrise Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and “Tradition.”
I reached out by phone to Uzal, who is in Oklahoma City, where the show is playing prior to its Indy run. I asked her right off how many cities she’s visited while being on tour for more than a year. “Nearly 40 and now we are on the second leg. Actually, one of the attractive things about touring, besides the artistic side of it, is that I don’t think that as a foreign person I would ever get to see the country like I’ve seen it. As a tourist, you go to bigger destinations. I would never have been to Milwaukee, Wisconsin or Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s been fascinating,” said the actor, who will continue with the tour until her contract ends in May.
Uzal is from Madrid, where she was a lawyer before deciding to pursue her first love of acting and move to New York eight years ago to forge a career on the stage. She said her parents wanted her to be a lawyer and because she was an obedient daughter, she followed their wishes. But eventually, she said she had to find the courage to pursue what she really loved and that was a life in the theatre, so she rebelled. “You have to stand up to a challenge if you are called to something,” she said.
When asked about what was the most appealing aspect of playing the role of Golde, Uzal said, “It covers every possible emotion you can portray as an actor. It is really a gift of a role because she goes through everything. She goes through heightened comedy, heightened tragedy and all the in between. She has all the colors of the palette. So, in that way, it is a gift. And of course, sharing the stage with Yehezkel Lazarov who plays Tevye, and all the company members is also a gift and also the creative team. Just the way this production has been revisited is fantastic.”
Pointing out that “Fiddler” premiered in 1964, I asked Uzal why she thinks the show has endured. “There are two main reasons. The book and libretto are so brilliantly written and stand the test of time, just like anything else that is considered a classic, the Parthenon, an opera or a symphony. When the material is brilliant, you just can’t get enough of it. It never grows old. So that’s one thing,” she replied, adding, “Then, it deals with issues that are universal to human beings. It’s very relevant. It’s a story about refugees, not immigrants, because refugees don’t have a choice. They have to leave their countries. Unfortunately, there are a lot of refugees in the world. I think a lot of people can connect to that. It’s also about generational differences between parents and children and how they want to move forward, defying traditions and that is always going to be there.”
After performances, actors who are on tour usually find fans at the stage door who are eager to meet the artists, so I was curious about what kinds of questions she and her fellow company member are most often asked. “Questions like the ones you are asking me. What is life on tour like? Do you find it hard to be away from your family? Do you get tired of doing the show over and over again? How do you take care of yourself? They also ask character-oriented questions. One of the most rewarding things is people who hum the songs or people who tell you they grew up with the show and they are now introducing their children to it and find they love it too. That is beautiful when you see the show passed from generation to generation,” said Uzal.
For those who have seen the show multiple times, Uzal said, “The show has been revisited in a way that I always approach a show, as if it had never been done before with a completely fresh look at it. One thing that stands out is the choreography. It’s Jerome Robbins choreography reworked by Hofesh Shechter. Everybody loves it. It is a novelty. That’s what stands out for people who have seen it. It also has a more raw quality than previous productions.”
And what about those who have never seen it? “A lot of people are surprised they know the songs in the show. They will also connect with the multiple struggles that the characters have because they are universal,” she stressed.
Finally, I brought up the racial prejudice and antisemitism, in particular, that is raising its ugly head in this country. I asked Uzal if this show has the power to open minds and she emphasized, “I believe so. The show talks about what it means to be the ‘other.’ In this case, it takes place in a fictional settlement in 1905, but it constantly brings up what it means to be the ‘other.’ You see people as the ‘other’ in the interaction between Jewish and Russian Orthodox communities, but it translates to anybody who knows what it means to be the ‘other.’”
“Fiddler on the Roof” tickets are on sale now and available in person at Old National Centre ticket office, online at ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.