Birdie Neman Katz will always have a special place in her heart for the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Katz has portrayed several different roles in “Fiddler on the Roof” throughout her acting career, including the mother and her daughters. And now, she’s performing the role of Yente the Matchmaker in the national tour, which stops Tuesday at Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium.
“It’s one of those shows that keeps coming back to me, kind of like putting on warm, fuzzy pajamas all of the time,” Katz said.
“Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of Tevye, the father of five daughters, and their attempts to maintain his Jewish religious traditions while other influences encroach on their lives. The 1965 musical won nine Tony Awards and is the 14th longest-running show in Broadway history.
The musical also has spawned many revivals and national tours.
Even though it‘s centered on Jewish culture, Katz said people have embraced “Fiddler on the Roof” because of the message.
“This is a story about community and family traditions and how folks deal with that on a regular basis, and that’s found in every culture,” Katz said.
Katz also said the music is uplifting and includes some songs “that are not only significant on Broadway but in pop culture.”
Tunes include “Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Tradition.”
Working on this particular production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is surreal for Katz. It’s her first national tour, though she’s performed in professional regional productions.
“I’ve never done a 90-city tour, and it’s quite amazing to be out on the road for the first time at 54 seeing the country with this amazing cast,” Katz said. “I’m very grateful to have the support of my family, who did not mind me being out on the road.”
Katz has enjoyed watching younger actresses play the roles she’s previously performed.
“I’ve watched the girls playing those roles, and I can’t believe that I was once in that position,” she said.
For her first national tour, “Fiddler on the Roof” has been the perfect show for Katz.
“It’s a dream come true, and I couldn’t imagine this not being the first show that I tour the country with,” she said.