Rosie O’Donnell is returning to Broadway, this time as an actress, stepping into the current stage revival of Fiddler on the Roof.
O’Donnell, 43, has scored the leading role as Golde, the long-suffering wife of the milkman Tevye, being played by Harvey Fierstein.
For his part, Fierstein was not exactly an orthodox choice to play the devoted husband and doting father of five daughters. The openly gay actor picked up a Tony for his last leading role: that of the mother Edna Turnblad in the musical Hairspray.
O’Donnell, herself openly gay, is scheduled to start in Fiddler on Sept. 20, according to the Web site Broadway.com. Her songs in the show will include “Sabbath Prayer,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and, the duet Golde shares with her husband, “Do You Love Me?”
In a statement, Fierstein, 51, said: “As a 20-year friend of Rosie’s, I couldn’t be happier that we will finally share a stage together. With her understanding of Fiddler’s important place in theatrical history, I am positive she will uphold that tradition excitingly.”
Although the 1964 stage and 1971 movie musical classic Fiddler on the Roof specifically deals with the plight of Jews in Tsarist Russia, its themes about maintaining tradition and surviving oppression – to say nothing of the difficulties of worried parents’ marrying off their daughters – are what makes the material so universally appealing to people of all creeds and faiths.
In an interview with The Times, the show’s lyricist, Sheldon Harnick, said O’Donnell “is certainly strong, and down to earth, with a certain peasanty quality to her.” As for the role of Golde: “She loves deeply. She loves her children. She’s a survivor. There’s nothing essentially romantic or sentimental. She’s a realist. And all of those qualities certainly fit Rosie, from what I know from her work.”