Every theatergoer with a penchant for the boy-next-door type who gets the girl while finding himself in the process needs to see Adam Kantor’s performance as Motel Kamzoil in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof. This isn’t Kantor’s first memorable performance, he’s previously played Jamie in The Last Five Years, Mark in Rent, and Henry in Next To Normal, but playing Motel is an endeavor that has hit close to home for Kantor.
Kantor grew up Jewish and has a long-standing connection to Fiddler. This past summer he lived out one of his other passions and traveled to Eastern Europe to prepare for his role. He visited Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia for three weeks to find connections to not only the land of his people, but to that of Fiddler’s original creator, Sholem Aleichem. When asked about what his favorite stops on the trip, Kantor told Stage Door Dish, “It’s too difficult to narrow down. It was pretty special visiting the house outside Kiev where Sholem Aleichem lived and bought his dairy from Tevye, and where he created these iconic characters.” He added, “Before the Ukraine excursion, witnessing the staggeringly beautiful and hauntingly striking fortress synagogue in Bykhov was unforgettable.”
Kantor’s Fiddler experience had a significant impact on both his professional and personal life. “Motel has taught me more than any other role about what it means American, to be a descendant of immigrants, and it’s very nice to now be playing a devoted husband and father, as I aspire to be both one day in my life,” Kantor said.
Motel is the type of character everyone has been able to relate to at some point in their life. He’s not quite fully grown into himself, carrying larger-than-life dreams that seem unreachable. When asked which of Motel’s traits he would carry with him after the show, Kantor said, “I hope I’ll carry Motel’s superhero-like ability to transcend his inner-demons, to override even the most profound sense of self-doubt, to barrel past the nay-sayers and come out a winner. I hope I’ll carry Motel’s reverence for love above all else.”
This isn’t the first time Kantor has played a husband, though Jamie and Cathy are quite a different couple from Motel and Tzeitel. While Motel is a loving, respectable provider, Jamie has been described as a womanizer, cheat, and egomaniac. However, Kantor is quick to defend his character. “As an actor, you are your character’s highest defendant,” Kantor prefaced. “So, in Jamie’s defense, I don’t think he’s inherently a bad husband. I think he loved Cathy deeply, but their foundation was cracked. They fundamentally weren’t meant to be. His sleeping with another woman was not the reason their marriage ended; it was simply the byproduct of a deeply fractured relationship. I’ve learned through both roles the importance of compromise and devotion.”
Love is the one thing Motel is sure about. He defies tradition – and six-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein‘s Tevye – for his beloved Tzeitel, played by the lovely and talented Alexandra Silber. Anyone who follows either actor on social media can see that they are not only great friends, but also share an engaging chemistry. Kantor recalled a couple of his most cherished memories with Silber.
“I’ll give my top two, which both involve music and dancing,” Kantor said. “One was towards the beginning of rehearsal – a night of Klezmer music at Eldridge Street Synagogue. And the other was just last week – a private dance party of just the two of us alone in a gym studio, creating full on theatre-dance pieces with yoga props.”
The secret to Kantor’s success and wonderful attitude toward life may lie in the one simple and poignant piece of advice he has retained through his years in theatre. Simply put, Kantor said, “You are enough.” Based on his engaging, witty personality and dynamic stage presence, it’s easy to argue that Kantor lives up to those words and more.