When you think of “Fiddler on the Roof,” does the music start playing in your head? Are the words to “Tradition” booming in your thoughts?
Ruthy Froch, who plays Hodel in the production now playing at the Providence Performing Arts Center, says the classic play still resonates with audiences today.
In a recent phone interview, she said, “ ‘Fiddler’ is so timeless and very relevant, especially with what’s going on in our world. There’s a gift on every page.
“No matter how many times you see it, you relate to something different. You discover something new.”
“Fiddler on the Roof” is a Jewish play with universal themes. Take the sisters, for example: Five girls in turn-of-the-century Russia with the expectations that came with that era. Hodel is the second oldest. The three oldest siblings stand up to their father, breaking tradition. They are learning to advocate for themselves, said Froch.
“Hodel is an early feminist,” she said. “I’ve always felt a little like Hodel.”
Like many of us, Froch grew up with “Fiddler.”
“It was the first movie I saw that wasn’t animated. I was maybe 6,” she said. “I’ve always been singing ‘Fiddler.’ ”
Froch went on to perform in the show in high school, and then she saw the 2015 revival on Broadway. She’s been in the current touring production since September 2018, performing in about 440 shows, she estimates.
Froch, who is Jewish, grew up in California in what she calls a Jewish household. She graduated from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and has a variety of shows to her credit, including “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
As for “Fiddler,” she says, “There are so many biblical references and Torah references that I remember studying as a kid.”
Froch said she had trouble understanding some of those references, so she consulted her father. He helped her “unpack” some of the scenes, including the train scene, when Hodel leaves for Siberia to find her imprisoned fiancée. Froch said he was very helpful in explaining the references in layman’s terms.
“Everyone who does this show and is Jewish, a small part of them is beaming,” she said.
“We each bring our own soul to it. All of us understand the gravity of what we are doing.”
The “Fiddler” tour features reimagined choreography by Israeli Hofesh Shechter, which Froch describes as “beautiful.”
“It’s completely stunning,” she said. “Part of the magic of our production is that it focuses on the circumstances and the humanity of the play. To me it looks like a painting.”
Froch is obviously proud of being Jewish and appearing in “Fiddler.” A statement from her bio says it all: “I am incredibly proud to be Jewish. I hope young Jewish kids who come to see this show understand that Jewish expression is imperative to our world, our history and the American theater. We are stronger together.”
FRAN OSTENDORF (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.