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L of a ride: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ moves the musical to Williamsburg

Sister act: The writers of “Fiddler on the Rooftop Bar,” have moved the 1964 musical to modern-day Williamsburg, with Tevye as a wannabe social media star, and his three daughters (pictured) as the California sibling act Haim.
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If she were a rich man — she wouldn’t have a brand new show!

Two Williamsburg comedians have reinvented a classic Broadway musical as a gender-bending parody of the real estate market in gentrifying neighborhoods. “Fiddler on the Rooftop Bar,” at the Bell House on June 18, takes the original tale from a 1905 Russian shtetl and transports it to modern-day Brooklyn, with its characters forced to move due to circumstances outside of their control — a constant worry for renters in popular Kings County nabes, said one of its writers.

“The powerlessness of it, you really have no control and it’s a power dictating what’s going to happen to the place where you’re going to live,” said Melissa Stokoski, who created and stars in the show with Marcia Belsky. “Just the uncertainty of living in New York, especially in Williamsbu­rg.”

The two comics, who previously wrote a parody musical of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” are familiar with that uncertainty — in anticipation of the L train’s closure, they each moved closer to the J and M trains, only for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce the cancelation of the L-pocalypse in January.

In their retelling of the 1964 musical, Tevye — played by Belsky, who dons an untamed beard and a raspy Russian-Jewish accent — is a wannabe social media influencer, working as the superintendent for a couple of apartments in trendy Williamsburg. He and his platonic roommate Golde, along with several other tenants, including actors portraying the hip band Haim, consider moving due to the impending L-train shutdown, then are evicted when the landlord hears that well-heeled employees of Amazon will soon be moving to the neighborhood.

Just as the characters finish plans to scatter to distant neighborhoods, the all-powerful Tsar Cuomo announces the subway closure averted, and the characters spin conspiracy theories that real-estate developers knew about the last-minute rescue far in advance. Belsky discussed similar theories with her friends, as condos sprouted up near her former Bushwick apartment in the months before governor’s announcement.

“I was living off the DeKalb L stop and huge condos were going up and I was thinking, ‘Don’t they know about the L-train shutdown?’ ” Belsky said.

She and Stokoski say they want to stage the discussions they were having with friends about the shutdown, to show how real people talked about the event, beyond the news cycles and social media debates.

“We like to make shows that talk in the way we talk,” she said. “You see the news takes and the Twitter hot takes, but you don’t see how people talk among themselves.”

“Fiddler on the Rooftop Bar” at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643–6510, www.thebellhouseny.com]. Jun. 18 at 7:30 p.m. $15.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Posted 12:00 am, June 11, 2019
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