Fiddler on the Roof: A Tevye with heart

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo. Alan Dean

It is close to 50 years since Fiddler on the Roof debuted on Broadway and it remains one of the best-loved musicals of all time. Through its initial run in 1964, which garnered numerous Tony awards, it became the first Broadway show to top 3,000 performances. As well as becoming a popular movie in 1971, it has been the subject of a number of revivals on Broadway and in London’s West End, a wide assortment of professional and community productions across the English-speaking world and music from the show is a regular part of bar and bat mitzvah celebrations.

Based on the stories about Tevye the milkman by Sholem Aleichem, first published in 1894, Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein, with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, focuses on Tevye’s vain attempt to maintain Jewish tradition in a changing world. In addition to dealing with each of his three oldest daughters moving further away from the accepted custom of the father selecting appropriate husbands for them, he and his fellow villagers face expulsion from their home during a pogrom.

Given that Fiddler is very much Tevye’s show, a production can survive uneven performances, missed lines, technical difficulties and issues with direction, musical direction and choreography, provided that the central character is played with warmth, understanding, heart and joy.

All of the above happens in the Suzart production of Fiddler. While there are a number of problems with the production as a whole, Laurie Dickson is in his element as Tevye. Running the gamut from mischievous to moving, he delivers a thoroughly believable characterization (drawing in part, as he mentions in the program bio, from his own familial experience).

Among the other strong performers are Tom Kobolak as the rejected suitor, Lazar Wolfe, and Lynn Harper-Ciarroni as the gossipy Yente. And the beauty of Julia Brown’s singing voice is simply a showstopper.

Director Kraig Paul Proulx has inserted some interesting effects, such as members of the chorus moving through the auditorium with (electric) candles as they sing and the ghost of Fruma Sarah wearing lengthy extensions on her arms during the dream sequence.

On the other side of the ledger, he has not managed to instill sufficient confidence in some cast members for them to be at the top of their potential. This is particularly true for Arlene Watson, who seems ill at ease in the role of Golde. In addition, the love stories of Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava and their partners Motel, Perchik and Fyedka would be much more effective with more feeling in evidence.

Part of the problem is that the stage of the Centrepointe Studio theatre is far too small to accommodate a 40+ cast and 12-piece orchestra comfortably. It stymies attempts at dance numbers and keeps people shuffling when they should be moving with intent and spirit.

Yet, despite the space limitations, Elaine McCausland has designed a very workable set. Any unevenness of tempo on opening night was caused by microphone breakdowns, general sound and lighting glitches and awkward pauses occasioned by forgotten lines, not by the efficient set changes.

In general, however, the strength of the book, music and lyrics of Fiddler on the Roof, together with a fine Tevye, are reason enough for the enthusiastic audience response to the Suzart production.

Suzart Productions’ Fiddler on the Roof played at Centrepointe Studio Theatre from May 24 to 26. This is Suzart’s tenth anniversary season.

Fiddler on the Roof

Book by Joseph Stein

Music by Jerry Bock

Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

Suzart Productions

Director: Kraig Paul Proulx

Musical director: Catherine Spear

Choreographer: Emma Deeks

Set: Elaine McCausland

Lighting: Tesh Subramanian

Sound: Morgan Coughlan

Costumes: Colleen Sloan

Cast:

Tevye…………………………………………………………..Laurie Dickson

Golde…………………………………………………………..Arlene Watson

Tzeitel………………………………………………………….Emi Lanthier

Hodel…………………………………………………………..Julia Brown

Chava…………………………………………………………..Sarah Dee

Shprintze……………………………………………………….Katie Shepherd

Bielke…………………………………………………………..Maya Ruckenstein

Motel…………………………………………………..………Jay Landreville

Perchik…………………………………………………………Liam Gosson

Fyedka………………………………………………………….Jamie Rice

Lazar Wolfe……………………………………………………Tom Kobolak

Yente……………………………………………………………Lynn Harper-Ciarroni

Rabbi……………………………………………………………Adam Goldberg

Grandma Tzeitel………………………………………………..Nadine Levin

Fruma-Sarah……………………………………………………Joy Bowerman

Mordcha………………………………………………………..Marc Lessard

Constable………………………………………………………Johannes Ziebarth

Avram………………………………………………………….Travis Pender

Boris……………………………………………………………Alex Shepherd

Mendel…………………………………………………………Stefan Vidovic

Shaindel………………………………………………………..Kerry-Lee Faulkner

Nachum the Beggar……………………………………………Kevin Fowler Dacey

Sasha…………………………………………………………..Megan Hulan

The Fiddler…………………………………………………….Chad Wolfe

Chorus:

Lindsay Allen, Joy Bowerman, Ross Couchman, Tricia Curtis, Kevin Fowler Dacey, Clayton Dignard, Lesley Hammil, Valerie Houston, Megan Hulan, Kyla Kenny, Sadie Laflamme Snow, Nadine Levin, Adam Linton, Alison Manning, Jackie Roy, Rachel Rumstein, Shelagh Salisbury, Anna Seguin, Tara St. Pierre, Calvin Ziebarth, Zachary Ziebarth

 


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