In Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein’s Fiddler on the Roof, the milkman Tevye asks his wife Golde, “Do you love me?” She answers, “Do I love you…for twenty five years I’ve lived with him, Fought with him, starved with him, Twenty-five my bed is his, If that’s not love, what is?”
Well for over twenty-five years and longer, since 1964 to be exact, it’s been a love affair between the audiences and the characters in this most beloved musical. John Chapman of The Daily News said on opening night at the Imperial Theatre, …“One of the great works of the American musical theatre. It is darling, touching, beautiful, warm, funny and inspiring.”
The story of the poor milkman from Anatevka lives on as Shalom Aleichem’s poignant tale of ‘Tevye and His Daughters’ (from which the play was based) continues to play out in cities large and small across the world. It is currently in a 2015 revival on Broadway. The story captures the lives, trials and times of the people in the little village of Anatevka just before and at the beginning of the pogroms and is used as the backdrop for our story.
How Tevye copes with the struggles of feeding his family, keeping them together in their faith while adhering to the Jewish traditions of his ancestors in an ever-changing world, challenges the struggling milkman to the point that one more change in his life, one more bending the rules, one more break in tradition would tip the scales and throw that tradition-good or bad- out the window. Even today as we speak, much of what we see in Fiddler is played out in many homes where religious tradition is still followed to the last detail.
From the very first Tradition sung by Rudy Martinez (Tevye) to the last soulful Anatevka with the entire cast/town leaving their beloved homes by decree of the Czar, director Kathy Brombacher has pumped heart into the lives of the central characters and left nothing out of the traditional keepsakes held so dear to the story; kissing the mezuzah and placing the wedding ring on the right forefinger of the bride and reciting the Sabbath Blessing. In other words, Tradition is still kept at the forefront of Welk’s production.
Jerry Bock’s winning score includes If I Were a Rich Man, Far From the Home I love, Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Chavelah (that one breaks my heart every time I hear it), Sunrise, Sunset (another tearjerker), To Life, Miracle of Miracles, and of course “Tradition”.
Tevye has five daughters but the story highlights his three eldest, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava (Kelly Derouin, Nicki Elledge and Olivia Hodson all have strong voices and are very credible.) Of their love interests, Motel, the Tailor Motel Cam Zoil (Ben Williams) excels. (Miracle of Miracles)
Perchik (Jacob Hoff) the radical thinker ends up in a jail cell in Siberia and is followed by Holel (Far From The Home I Love). It took a while for me to warm up to Hoff when he first came on the scene. He later proved to fill the shoes of other Perchik’s I have seen. The rebel in the family that caused Tevye and Golde grief was Chava’s Russian love interest Fyedka played convincingly by Drew Grant. (Chavelah). As the outsider he faced the mistrust of Tevye, but earned the love of Chava.
Susan E.V. Boland, no stranger to the role of Matchmaker (yes, matchmaker) plays Yente with a gleam in her eye. She was Yente in Moonlight’s production some years back. Of the entire cast, she seemed to be enjoying herself the most. And why not, it’s a fun role and she plays it to the hilt. ‘What would the little town of Anatevka be without a matchmaker? I’ll tell you what, nothing.’
Wendy Waddell plays Golde with a firm hand and look, but offers a different and softer rendition of Do You Love Me. It is tenderly executed and quite different than others I’ve seen. Rudy Martinez has the right look and voice as the milkman, Tevye. When he sings, he shines but his speaking roles are less than convincing.
In one of the funniest scenes, The Dream, Tevye has to convince Golde that their eldest Tzeitel, who was promised to Lazar Wolf, the butcher, (a convincing job by Scott Ramp), is now going to marry Motel, the Tailor. The company pulls that one off with lots of pizzazz, some great lighting designs by Jennifer Edwards, fine choreography by Orlando Alexander, and musical direction by Justin Gray. Of course we must not forget to mention The Fiddler played with ease by Hanz Enyeart.
Costumes provided by Theatre Company and Beard and Wig makeup (especially for the men), and pardon my being too picky, the beards look almost comical and some of the men’s clothing is out of sync with the era.
One never wants to miss a Fiddler On The Roof and this one is no exception.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through April 24th
Organization: Welk Resort Theatre
Production Type: Musical
Where: 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido, CA. 92026
Ticket Prices: Check with box office