“In our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is crazy.”
In most productions of Fiddler on the Roof Tevye delivers these opening lines ponderously, reflectively—a bit, you could say, maudlinly. But the teenage cast members of a recent New Jersey production took a slightly different tack. Under the auspices of Black Box Studios, a Teaneck theater company, the students presented an in-your-face, punk rendition that somehow manages to retain the spirit and charm of the original. Riffing on a theme suggested by director Matt Okin, the actors, starting with the very first lines, donned ripped jeans, snarled into microphones, and jumped around the suburban stage.
Theirs wasn’t the first punk adaptation of Fiddler. In 2005, the Australian band YidCore released an album that paved the way for these Tri-state, mohawked Anatevkans. But the Jersey kids do something special: In their take on “Matchmaker,” a charming song which in its original incarnation, always sounded more than a little desperate, Hodel is anything but. She demands that Yenta (and the audience) pick out a boy who’s good enough for her. And in “Tradition,” the villagers don’t sound remotely belabored by their inheritance. On the contrary, they sound pretty darn enthusiastic.