Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Theater review: Accompany a father on a journey between religion and culture in Fiddler on the Roof
This musical will have you dancing with delight.
CARROLLTON Fiddler on the Roof is based on the collected stories from Tevye and his Daughters by Sholem Aleichem. It opened in 1964 and was the first musical to have an original run of over 3,000 performances. It was very well received, being nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning nine of them, including Best Musical, Score, Book, Direction, and Choreography. 1971 brought a successful film adaptation and has garnered four revivals on Broadway. This classic musical has touched the hearts of people for many years with its music and the message it teaches about choices and how tenuous life can really be.
Fiddler on the Roof follows the story of Tevye, the village milk man who struggles to keep the Jewish traditions of his ancestors intact while westernized thinking is beginning to seep into Anatevka.
Tevye’s three daughters begin to make life choices for themselves that affects how Tevye sees the world and his place in it.
The music conducted by Music Director Michael Plantz was very well done. I was delighted and impressed by the live musicians performing for this production. This added a new dimension to the show for me; I’d never seen this musical with a live orchestra before. It was very much enjoyable to hear. I also liked how the actors’ lines were always clearly audible in the performance hall, making the show easy to understand and enjoy.
Brooke Viegut was successful in her selection of the properties to be used in the performance. Each had an important function and was accurate to the time period portrayed in rural Russia. This was especially visible during the wedding scene when a cup is used during the ceremony and the couple stands under a traditional Jewish canopy. This added reality to the stage and immersed me into the action that was taking place.
The set design by Jason Leyva and John Wilkerson was simple though well done and effective in portraying the different locals throughout the play. I could easily imagine myself in the tavern as well as outside Tevye’s home. The set was mainly a wall along the back of the stage with a door on the right and a barn-like entrance on the left. The actors also used the balcony of the theater for the different houses in the neighborhood, leaving Teyve’s family on the stage. This was effective in showing the similarities between the ways the Sabbath is celebrated and the emotion of the different families as they were forced out of their homeland. I also caught small, realistic details such as the mezuzot (small containers with a written prayer inside found on Jewish buildings) on the entrance to Tevye’s home and the tailor’s shop. The set showed just enough to give me an effective image into life at Anatevka.
The lighting, designed by Robert Molina, successfully illuminated the characters throughout the play. Transitions were clean and effective in focusing the attention on the action where it needed to be. The color sequences chosen also added a lot to the scenes, creating an ambiance that was visibility realistic.
Jennifer Leyva’s choreography was outstanding and added tremendously to the show. The numbers nicely supported the scenes and the dancers’ performances were well synchronized. Leyva’s design held aspects of Jewish dance that were real to the time period and the cultural influence of the surrounding areas.
Costumes designed by Margaret Wilkerson and Barbara Cox, with some coming from the UNT Costume Department, were authentic to the time period and the culture making it easy to drop into Teyve’s world.
I enjoyed the attention to small details such as the prayer shawls on all the Jewish men and the hair coverings for all of the Jewish women. I also appreciated the hair and makeup consistency throughout the cast as designed by Annalee Thomason. The entire look of the characters helped the actors easily fit into their roles and gave the musical a nice realism.
John Wilkerson was outstanding in his portrayal of Tevye. His character was believable and he demonstrated true skill with the emotion he generated in his portrayal. His performance of “Tradition” and “If I Were a Rich Man” were stand outs, though all his songs were very enjoyable. There was a strong connection between Tevye and Golde in their performance of “Do You Love Me?” Wilkerson was grand in his role and kept the audience actively engaged in the action onstage.
Amy Cave performed the part of Golde, Tevye’s wife. I wish her character was in more scenes throughout the musical. Cave beautifully portrayed the wife that was often frustrated by her husband though she always saw it as just one of his little “quirks.” She was strong in her singing as well as in her acting which made her a full believable character that cared deeply for her family.
Tzeitel, performed by Connie Kegg, was fun to watch as she demonstrated skill in her various interactions with both Motel and her sisters. I especially enjoyed her singing in “Matchmaker” and how she showed great conflict with what her sisters were singing about. She was strong in her performance every time she was onstage.
Rachel Massey performed the part of Hodel, the second daughter. Her interactions with Perchik were realistic and believable and added to their scenes together and to the story. I also enjoyed seeing how her character grew throughout the show, from having a youthful crush on the coveted Rabbi’s son in “Matchmaker,” the mature love she shares with Perchik in their beautiful rendition of “Now I Have Everything” to her resolved performance of “Far From the Home I Love.” Massey really helped illustrate the importance of family in the show and the pressure of change brought to the community.
Third daughter Chava, performed by Chandler Bates, kept pace easily with the other actors onstage, showing skill in her performance. I especially appreciated her in the “Chava Sequence” when she was able to show off her skills in both singing and dance.
Perchik was amazing in his role as the teacher and the introducer of western ideology into the town. His performance in “Now I Have Everything” was strong and believable. His interaction with Hodel created a believable tension between them, one that added many aspects to his character.
A notable performance includes Lazar Wolf, performed by John Pfaffenberger, who easily conveyed the emotion of his character while he interacted with Tevye and the other characters in the production. Another is the performance of Fyedka, brought to life by Sean Malloy, who showed a highly intelligent character that attracts the eye of Hodel; and Fruma-Sarah, performed by Paige Davis, who appropriately dominated the stage during Tevye’s dream.
Other actors were good at keeping themselves to the world of the play and making it their own. I especially appreciated the interactions between community members and how it never seemed like the character was always wondering. There was always a purpose, which was visible throughout the piece. This helped to make it a very compelling production.
The Firehouse Theatre’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof will draw you deep into the musical’s storyline and make you think about the world’s cultural and traditional diversity. It will also cause you to reflect on life choices and how each affects those around you. I highly recommend the show as a great way to spend some time in the little town of Anatevka.
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