Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Adler Does His Poppa's Kind of Play

Cleveland Press December 24, 1966

Luther Adler's long and distinguished acting career has its roots in the Yiddish theater of New York. The Adlers were the Barrymores of that theatrical form. And his career goes back to the famous Group Theater of the 1930's where Adler was Broadway's original "Golden Boy."

And now Adler finds himself starring in one of the most popular musicals in recent years, "Fiddler on the Roof," which opens Monday night at the Music Hall for two weeks. For Adler, it's a matter of having gone full circle.

"It's a musical and it's not a musical," he said in a phone interview and you could hear the shrug in his voice. "This is the kind of play we had in poppa's theater all the time.

"IT WAS ALWAYS a serious play with some dancing and singing. Our audiences couldn't take straight drama so poppa added music," he recalled.

"As a kid I saw my father's production of 'Merchant of Venice' and in the abduction scene there was music and dancing. Shakespeare was rough for a primitive audience so you had to have the music.

"Fiddler" captures the spirit of Jewish folk tales. You call it a musical, but then you have to ask where are the broads, where is the snappy opening?

"It's a musical, but it's not quite a musical" he said, the shrug back in his voice.

Adler does six performances a week, with Pal Lipson handling the matinees. Adler calls the role a killer. He points out that his character has 11 songs, five dance routines, and is only off stage 18 minutes. That's more songs than any opera role.