Live theater is back – at least at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. And what better way to ease into a post-pandemic world than by tracking the life and times of one of our all-time old favorites, Sholem Aleichem’s celebrated Tevye, an old Russian finding a new lease on life in old New York. Written and performed by Tom Dugan and directed by Michael Vale and Tom Dugan, TEVYE IN NEW YORK offers all the warmth and folk wisdom of “Fiddler on the Roof” – but without the music (unless we count a few strains from a fiddle or sly references to “Sunrise…Sunset” and the advantages of being a rich men. This is the gentle manner and sound advice of a man who has seen it all. What a way to welcome back live theater in Beverly Hills!
The Wallis went through quite a facelift to welcome Tevye to our shores, changing its courtyard into an expandable 100-person, socially-distanced space with tiered seating and open staging. Not to mention lots of activities and additions designed to offer safety and security to audience members in this time of plague. After a full year of closure, the Wallis has outdone itself. With clever stacks of scaffolding over much of the outdoor stage, Tevye has lots of room to spread out and climb about. I must admit that I missed the curtain rising.
Originally scheduled for 2020, TEVYE IN NEW YORK was delayed by worldwide COVID-19 – but better late than never is definitely true in this case. Tom Dugan does a brilliant job of keeping Tevye the same person beloved by theater-goers. The poignant moments interspersed with his humor and comfortable attitude towards the world make Dugan’s Tevye a memorable character. At the same time, this Tevye has grown from a peasant in a shtetl to a dairyman operating his own business – which he joyfully pushes around the crowded streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side as he waits for word from his daughter – soon to join her father as an immigrant seeking a better life.
Set in 1914, TEVYE IN NEW YORK manages to keep Tevye’s earlier life alive – while demonstrating how this creative man adapts to a new life with gusto as he follows “the American dream.” Talented Tom Dugan mingles a taste of the old and the new in this potpourri of life in the crowded New York around the time when the world will soon change drastically through war. Dugan and co-director Vale offer a light touch to this moment in time, with Vale also doing scenic and costume design. With lighting by Elizabeth Harper and sound by Cricket S. Myers, TEVYE IN NEW YORK skillfully brings the outdoors and indoors together.
TEVYE IN NEW YORK opens on Wednesday, 6/12/21 and runs through Sunday, 7/25/21. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. The show runs for 90 minutes without an intermission. Tickets are $75. For further information and reservations, please phone 310-746-4000, email Tickets@theWallis.org, or go online.