After playing a boy witch in Sleep No More and a terrorist in the controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer, Jesse Kovarsky is embracing something a bit more, well, traditional. “For the first time, as a dancer, I don’t have to describe or defend what I’m doing,” he says. “I just have to say, ‘I’m in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway’.”
Kovarsky is featured in the revival, which opened December 20 at the Broadway Theatre, as the titular fiddler in a Russian-Jewish shtetl. Danny Burstein headlines as milkman narrator Tevye. “Bartlett Sher, our director, has incorporated the fiddler throughout the show,” Kovarsky explains. “He represents their culture’s traditions, but in a mystical, poetic way, he’s challenging Tevye to accept change.”
Although the show has helped him get in touch with his own Jewish heritage, Kovarsky, 27, also relates to the musical as a gay man. “Tevye’s faced with whether or not he can accept his daughters as they test his beliefs, and it’s like how I interacted with my family when I came out at 18,” he says. “From that point on, I never hid that part of me, and it’s never been a hindrance. Of course, you come across many gay men in my profession.”
You’re less likely to meet a dancer with Kovarsky’s beard, showcased in Greg Salvatori’s photo book Beards of New York. “I’m proud of my ability to grow facial hair,” he says of his Fiddler look, “but now I’m navigating where I fit in in the gay world. The beard adds a sense of masculinity gay men in New York are drawn to. It’s interesting when I don’t open my mouth and just let my beard do the talking.”
Next, December 2015.