Credit: Joan Marcus

Your hands are tied with Fiddler. Everyone who comes to see it will want their yeidel-deidel needs met in a number of ways. The costumes, especially the women’s, have to be pure threadbare shtetl-wear. The sets need to evoke a Chagall-like vision of mystical poverty in which everything is both grubby and luminous, in which the glow of ancestral origins beams through a thickly clouded dust, the hunger from whence Jews came.

Happily, this revival, which stops in Chicago for three weeks, doesn’t disappoint in any of these respects. Even better, it also works legitimate stage wonders within nostalgia’s constraints. The background ensemble of whirling yeshiva bochers, following Jerome Robbins’s original choreography, are amazing, capturing all the rapture of orthodox dance with an almost unholy amount of sauce on top. Yehezkel Lazarov as Tevye nobly gives the audience all the chestal shimmying it could want, but manages to lend his performance the kind of overworked wheeze and stagger that one would actually expect from a run-down, persecuted milkman with a lame horse. This honesty about what being poor means is a strength of the production overall, but Jonathan von Mering takes that impulse too far as Lazar Wolf; watching him, I missed the jolly glint in Paul Mann’s eye from the movie.

The best scene is an incredible, hallucinatory take on the Fruma-Sarah nightmare that is everything fans of traditional Hebrew demonology but also latex masks and corpses on stilts could hope for.   v