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Fiddler on the Roof
a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Stein, Bock, & Harnick

COMPANY : Theater of the Stars [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Fabulous Fox [WEBSITE]
ID# 4096

SHOWING : July 19, 2011 - July 24, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

In the little village of Anatevka, Tevye, a poor dairyman, tries to instill in his five daughters the traditions of his tight-knit Jewish community in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia.

Full of wonderful characters and rich in historical and ethnic detail, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has touched audiences around the world with its humor, warmth and honesty. Its universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion, leaving audiences crying tears of laughter, joy and sadness.

The lush score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick has been embraced as one of the best ever written for the stage with standards such as "Matchmaker", "If I Were a Rich Man", "Sunrise, Sunset", and "Do You Love Me?"




CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Traditions
by Dedalus
Monday, August 15, 2011
4.0
Another tour of “Fiddler on the Roof?” Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Atlanta, you may say all of us have seen “Fiddler on the Roof.” Why does it keep coming back? I’ll tell you! I don’t know. But it does, and we keep flocking back. In what manner is this new production staged? That I can tell you in one word. Traditional!

In the past, I have taken to task Theatre of the Stars’ penchant for staging old favorites in a manner that slavishly copies the original productions, calling it the “museum mummification” of musicals. True to form, this production of “Fiddler,” in its staging, is no different from thousands that have come before. So, the question I need to ask is this – why did I enjoy it no less than previous stagings? Why, this time, did it strike me as fresh (well, engaging) and moving as the day it first appeared?

One easy answer is that it’s been over a decade since I’ve actually seen it (I missed the recent Harvey Fierstein and Theodore Bikel tours). But, I’ll dismiss that right away – after all, I’d NEVER seen “Oklahoma” on stage, yet I found the 2008 tour of that classic about as fresh month-old cornbread.

Another quick thought is that this staging was filled with a talented and energetic cast who weren’t “going through the motions,” but were investing it with life and surprise. True enough, and a necessary part of keeping any production “alive.” And, there were many, many moments that struck me as authentic and moving, and many moments in which the oh-so-familiar lines and songs “felt” new.

Still, I believe the real reason this show worked so well for me was the show itself. Tevye is such a multi-layered and human character that I can’t help but respond, no matter who is filling his milk-stained work boots. In this case, Tom Alan Robbins strikes a delicate balance between the sometimes over-the-top clowning of Zero Mostel and the movie’s sometimes over-the-top gravitas of Topol. He gives us a brilliantly realized portrait of a proud man, bemused by the whimsically cruel choices of his God and his children, finding moments of strength and wisdom in the midst of his wry, sometimes off-center commentary and reaction.

This is also as much the story of the new century as it is about one man. Political changes in Russia are about to overwhelm these characters, and, with our perfect historical hindsight, we recognize this even during their moments of ecstatic happiness. It’s also a time when political changes reach into the heart of family tradition, forever changing the roles so fervently described in the opening number. Our familiarity of the show may be honestly jumbled with our familiarity of “what comes next” historically, but that makes no real difference here – those few totally unfamiliar with the play will know from the opening number that this will not end happily for all.

The play’s construction is brilliant in its commingling of several Sholem Aleichem stories into one unified (and thematically whole) story. Reading the twenty-seven separate stories of “Tevye’s Daughters” is more like reading a novel than an anthology, as each story shows us a new aspect of Tevye and his family and friends. (The stories of the two youngest daughters are as equally compelling – and more tragic – as the stories of Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava we see dramatized here – I strongly recommend you track them down.) The music and dance go miles towards evoking the time and place and culture, and here, despite the slavish mimicry of Jerome Robbins’ original staging, are performed to perfection.

As to the supporting cast, I liked Susan Calla’s Golde (“Do You Love Me?” was especially moving), Zal Owen’s Motel, and the three daughters played by Erin O’Neil (Tzeitel), Megan McGinnis (Hodel), and Ephie Aardema (Chava). All the townspeople had a spark of character and individuality, and the ensemble as a whole worked beautifully in the service of the story.

Yes, I left the theatre wishing the production had brought something new and original to this story. But the story itself is memorable enough, the production itself was memorable enough to remind me that sometimes revisiting a familiar show done in a traditional way can have its own rewards.

To digress to an even more traditional note, let me remind you of how Sholem Aleichem begins his story “Modern Children” (Tzeitel’s tale):

“Modern children, did you say? Ah, you bring them into the world, sacrifice yourself for them, you slave for them day and night – and what do you get out of it? You think that one way or another it would work out according to your ideas or station. After all, I don’t expect to marry them off to millionaires, but then I don’t have to be satisfied with just anyone, either. So I figured I’d have at least a little luck with my daughters. Why not? In the first place, didn’t the Lord bless me with handsome girls; and a pretty face, as you yourself have said, is half a dowry. And besides, with God’s help, I’m not the same Tevye I used to be. Now the best match is not beyond my reach. Don’t you agree?”

Old and well-loved musicals, did you say? Ah, you go to them, and what do you get out of it? You think that one way or another it would work out according to your memories and expectations. After, I don’t expect the production to go out on a creative limb, but I don’t have to be satisfied with a lifeless museum piece, either. In the first place, didn’t Mr. Aleichem bless us with a vibrant Tevye and with emotionally complex tales? Didn’t Joseph Stein and Jerome Robbins and Bock & Harnick bring them to the stage fully-formed and beautifully sung? And a beautiful show, as you yourself have said, is half the battle. Now, a diverting and moving revival is not beyond our reach. Don’t you agree?

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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