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Fiddler on the Roof
a Musical
by Joseph Stein, Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock

COMPANY : Company J at the MJCCA [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta [WEBSITE]
ID# 4409

SHOWING : January 19, 2013 - February 03, 2013



Musical Direction Annie Cook
Director Brian Kimmel
Scenic Designer Noah Aronson
Lighting Design Mitch Marcus
Malka Gillian Baker
Yente, The Matchmaker Shelley Barnett
Sasha Carson Cerney
Mordcha Branden Hembree
Shprintze Gracie Kirschner
Tevye Barry Stewart Mann
Chava Lindsey Marcus
Avram Eric Rich
Grandma Tzeitel Maxine Rosen
Lazar Wolf Bob Schultz
Rabbi David Skoke
Hodel Jo Jo Steine
Fyedka Jordan Stovall
Motel J.D. Touchton
Tzeitel Whitney Umstead
Fiddler Jonathan Urizar
Berille Emma Yarbrough
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A Fiddler, a Roof, a Town
by playgoer
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Company J's "Fiddler on the Roof"; boasts a wonderful set by Noah Aronson. Three buildings are spread across the stage -- the tailor's shop far stage right, a corner of the barn far left, and Tevye's house upstage left. A skyline of village buildings fills in the other floor space upstage. A dim sun by lighting designer Mitch Marcus glows above the skyline. With the slightly skewed perspective of Tevye's house, it's a great initial view. Later, when Tevye's house is used for a kitchen scene, portions of the building's walls swing out to reveal the kitchen. Otherwise, the house scenes play on a porch-like platform ranged by sets of steps that allow easy access up and down. It's not realistic, but it's sylish and workable. A pump attached to the barn allows for some nice mimed water effects, and inn and bedroom set pieces move on and off smoothly, filling the stage effectively for a few scenes.

The lighting design is usually effective, although a few scenes don't seem to be evenly lit, given the placement of actors. (I'm inclined to think that actors were missing their marks in some cases and the lighting technician was slow in bringing up spots in other cases.) The dream sequence uses a swirling colored light effect that heightens the scene beautifully, and the train station scene uses a nice latticed lighting effect. Add in the costumes by Linda Patterson and this is a terrific-looking show.

Vocally, the show is a mixed bag. On opening night, singers were rushing the orchestra in a number of numbers, making for a somewhat ragged effect. That should improve during the run. Some sound problems exist in the amplification of the show, with microphone squeals from time to time and unbalanced vocal/orchestral levels. Vocal highlights are "Matchmaker" (sung principally by daughters Whitney Umstead Sinkule, Jo-Jo Steine, and Lindsey Marcus), "Miracle of Miracles" (sung by JD Touchton), "Now I Have Everything"; (sung by Max Chambers and Jo-Jo steine), and "Far from the Home I Love" (sung by the magical Jo-Jo Steine).

You'll notice that none of the vocal highlights are in Tevye's songs. Barry Stewart Mann is not a singer nor a comic, but he is a strong actor. He is very effective in the role, but there's little lightness in his approach and not much sureness in his singing. The show is so well-written that it can work with a variety of approaches to Tevye. Mr. Mann is not bigger than life and is more earnest than delightful, but he makes the role his own.

Paula Markovitz, as his wife Golde, has a no-nonsense approach to her character, which works just fine, although she is perhaps more sour than she needs to be in dealing with others. Vocally, she has a trained voice that can be lovely on its own, but her voice doesn't always blend well with Mr. Mann's in duets. She sounds great in choral numbers along with Shelley Barnett as Yente (and a former Golde). Their acting scenes are fun, but I would have loved for them to have had a song to share on their own.

Director Brian Kimmel has staged the show nicely, using the side sections leading to the stage for wondrous effects during "Sabbath Prayer" and the end of the show. Choreography by Eileen Edwards contains a nice set of dance steps for Perchik and Hodel that is reprised in the wedding scene. Bafflingly, though, an earlier section of the wedding scene moves the stanchions separating the men and women to perform a mixed-sex dance in the middle of the stage, then returns the stanchions for the following scene, which is built upon the premise that men and women don't mix at weddings. It muddles the point of the scene to have the full ensemble dance together before Perchik crosses the line to dance with Hodel.

Ensemble acting is of varied qualities. I was impressed with the interns, particularly Carson Cerney and Eric Rich in the dance sequences, and everyone has been directed by Brian Kimmel to come out looking pretty good. The approaches to characterization are generally straightforward, but that works to keep the show moving along, rather than being sidetracked by idiosyncratic behavior.

My favorite quiet moments of the show were in Tevye's sung monologues, when he looks at his daughters and notes how much in love they look. Whitney Umstead Sinkule, as Tzeitel, and Jo-Jo Steine, as Hodel, both looked beautifully in love at those moments, and were lit to perfection to let the audience see those loving gazes clearly. Of the more active moments of the show, it's hard not to pick the dream sequence as a highlight, with its giant puppet of Fruma-Sarah and its special-effects-filled bed. The whole show, though, has lots of memorable moments sprinkled throughout by director Brian Kimmel. It makes for an entertaining evening that lets the classic qualities of "Fiddler on the Roof" shine through.

Oh, and fiddler Johnathan Urizar is absolutely fabulous! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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