Israeli actor brings diverse talents to his role as Tevye in this stage revival.
Photography by Joan Marcus
Israeli actor Yehezkel Lazarov jokes that he understands why this tour of Fiddler on the Roof needed a second year. The first year did not take him to Detroit. At last, Lazarov will appear at the Fisher Theatre, where the original show had its 1964 trial run before heading to Broadway.
“I never see things [as isolated]. There’s always something before and after. I can’t wait to be on that stage,” said Lazarov, who stars as Tevye when the musical revival comes to town March 10-15.
Fans of the classical production will find some changes in this touring version, based on the Sholem Aleichem story of family relationships as experienced by a milkman, his wife and their five daughters living in a Russian village during the early 1900s, before the revolution.
Lazarov’s character sings “If I Were a Rich Man” in a show filled with enduring Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick numbers that include “To Life (L’Chaim),” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “Tradit“Part of what makes it new is the choreography in a more modern style and the stage setting,” Lazarov explained. “The stage is very clean and minimalistic, and it looks more modern because of the simplicity.”
Fiddler is directed by Tony Award-winner Bartlett Sher and choreographed by Hofesh Shechter, also from Israel, with scenic designs by Michael Yeargan.
The beginning and the ending of the play also are a bit different, Lazarov said. For example, the new show starts with Tevye in modern dress, reading from a book in a train station. Then he hears a fiddle and sees a sign identifying Anatevka, the village where the story takes place.
As the production moves into the 1905 setting and Tevye slips into period wear, Lazarov said he finds special significance in the connections he can make to his own family. Like Tevye, he also is a husband and father, but with only three daughters. His family is traveling with him on tour. Another similarity is that Lazarov is of Russian heritage and passes Jewish observance to his children.
“I come from a religious family and can remember going to the synagogue with my grandfather,” said Lazarov, 46, who has an interfaith marriage — as does one of Tevye’s daughters in the musical. “My grandfather used to tell me all the stories about when he was a kid. There were 11 brothers and sisters, and they moved from a little village in Russia because of the pogroms.
“My grandfather and grandmother kept to their faith. Knowing this in the back of my mind and soul, I say the word ‘Tradition’ and know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Lazarov also values the plot in the context of current socio-political themes. Thinking of today’s refugees forced to leave their homes, he believes that situation makes the Fiddler story important to tell now.
Man of Many Talents
Talking about his life, Lazarov described a multidisciplinary career that started with tap dancing in kindergarten and moved into choreography, singing, acting, directing, teaching and exploring photography and videography.
“It took many years for me to do all that,” Lazarov said. “It was not easy in the beginning because people did not understand me. I think they can be afraid of inter-disciplinarian people (because it is expected) that a person needs to do one thing.”
Lazarov, on the professional stage since age 12 and teaching since age 14, graduated from the Thelma Yellin Art School in Israel as a dancer and served as a singer in a military band before joining the renowned Bat Sheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. To enhance his dramatic skills, he studied at the Actors’ Centre in London before working at the Gesher and Cameri theaters, both in Israel.
Many starring roles followed, in diverse productions that included The Threepenny Opera, Yentl and A Chorus Line. Along with stage work, Lazarov has played leading roles in more than 40 films and television productions. His voice appeared in Waltz with Bashir, a 2008 Israeli animated drama that won a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Besides writing and directing short films shown in festivals, Lazarov has worked as a theater director who also adapts works, designs sets and choreographs. Productions have included Fathers & Sons, Alice and Falling Out of Time. His wife, Alin, a costume designer, has worked with him.
Delving into even more areas, Lazarov is the artistic director and co-founder of Studio Ankori Middle School and High School for creative thinking and entrepreneurship in Israel, as well as the initiator, art director and curator of AZA13, a Tel Aviv art venue. As a visual artist, he has exhibited photography and video projects.
“Because I’m an inter-disciplinarian artist, I’m teaching an inter-disciplinarian way of living as a performer or as a creator, and my life is full of freedom and interests,” Lazarov said. “I always feel I’m on one big vacation because it’s never boring.
“I can have rehearsals in the morning, meet with students right after I have meetings with teachers and go on to a show I’m directing or an exhibition that I’m curating. I’m doing all of this because I truly love what I’m doing.”
As the Lazarov family tours the country, both parents homeschool their daughters (ages 16, 12 and 8) and take them to museums and other points of interest in each destination city.
“It looks like my daughters have aspirations to go into entertainment, and my advice is to have the inner freedom to try to be curious, test everything they love and be creative,” he said. “I advise them to have the freedom to succeed and to fail, understanding that the only way to win a situation is to be in the process and not think about results.”
The revival of Fiddler on the Roof will be staged March 10-15 at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. Tickets start at $45. (313) 872-1000, ext. 0. broadwayindetroit.com.