BOSTON – In its three-week Boston run, thousands of local theater-goers who caught the Tony-nominated touring production of “Fiddler On the Roof” became new fans of Yehezkel Lazarov. The award-winning Israeli actor is delighting audiences and winning acclaim across the country for his role as Tevye, the iconic patriarch of the hugely popular musical of upended shtetl life based on Sholem Aleichem’s story, “Tevye the Dairyman.”
The touring production closed earlier this week from its run at the Emerson Colonial Theatre, presented by Broadway in Boston.
This was Lazarov’s first time in Boston. But one local fan who needed no introduction was Ronnie Sadka, an Israeli who’s a longtime finance professor and dean at Boston College.
More than three decades ago, when Lazarov and Sadka were about 8 years old, the two were paired by their dance teacher as a tap dancing duo. Their crowd-pleasing act put them in the spotlight for six or seven years, from stages across the country to television. In the late 1980s, they even performed in Festigal, Israel’s premiere annual showcase of song and dance for children.
They hadn’t been in touch or seen each other for more than 30 years. Lazarov was excited when he received an email from his long-ago dance partner who suggested they get together during Lazarov’s Boston gig.
The much anticipated reunion took place Saturday, Feb. 29, following the “Fiddler” performance. Sadka and his wife were in the audience, Sadka told the Journal. They met again the following Monday evening, with their families. Each have three children.
“It’s like 30 years haven’t passed at all,” Sadka said in a follow-up email. “We actually recalled a short dance we performed together 35 years ago. We just stood up, did it, no practice, we were totally in sync. Our kids [and wives] watched in disbelief. Amazing.”
Lazarov was as gleeful.
“Yes, we met, and we had the best time! We even danced together in memory of the good old days,” he wrote in an email.
“For me, it was more of a hobby,” Sadka said about tap dancing in a conversation before the reunion. The tap rhythms strike a chord with his affinity for math.
Even from a young age, Lazarov, whom he calls Hezi, was deeply connected to his artistic creativity. “He was really good in all sorts of dance,” Sadka said. Lazarov went on to dance with Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company and is also a noted choreographer.
Spending his youth performing before large audiences and dealing with stage fright was good preparation for Sadka’s academic career, he observed.
Over the decades, Sadka kept up his tapping hobby. In Evanston, Ill., where he was a graduate student immersed in researching his doctorate at Northwestern University, Sadka happened on a tap class and decided to once again put on his dancing shoes. That experience exposed him to a more contemporary world of tap beyond the Fred Astaire, Gene Kelley style that he and Lazarov channeled in their younger days. Even now, alone in an elevator, Sadka taps, and once he surprised his BC students, entertaining them during class.
For his son’s bar mitzvah in Israel last summer, Sadka and his daughter tapped to a dance choreographed by his former Evanston teacher.
Looking back, Sadka admires Lazarov’s creative instincts and how he always strove for perfection.
“To me, he’s always seemed a free spirit. Like a true artist, you can’t put him in a box.”