"Fiddler on the Roof" - Review by Eleanor Cade Busby

"Fiddler on the Roof“  Sold Out in Advance 

By Eleanor Cade Busby


     Lincoln Academy and Heartwood's collaborative production of “Fiddler on the Roof” was sold out for all planned performances by last Saturday night. “We have waiting lists for all of the upcoming performances,” said Executive Director Joy Braley, “While we hate to disappoint potential audience members, I don't want to offer false hope for tickets. We are completely sold out.”

     The success of the collaboration between Heartwood and Lincoln Academy has never been more clear than in this production of “Fiddler.” The show is a testament to a dedicated ensemble, technical fluidity, costumes, sets and many talented performers.

     "Fiddler on the Roof" is the last of the indisputably classic Broadway musicals to have been made the old-fashioned way. The songs are memorable, the book soundly constructed, and dances blend into the story with perennially pleasing effect.

     Based on the stories of master storyteller Sholoem Aleichem this is the story of a small village in Russia on the edge of catastrophic change. The village milkman, Tevye, experiences the changing world through his three eldest daughters and their approach to love and marriage.

     Some comments in the house prior to the curtain involved this being a 'school' show and how it would surely be 'cute. When Lincoln Academy senior Elias Diaute entered the stage on Saturday night, pulling his milk wagon, audience members smiled. Here was a high school student playing a famous role in a false beard.

     Diaute stepped outside theatrical convention in the manner of the incomparable Zero Mostel, who originated the role in 1964. Diaute addressed both God and the audience, demanding answers to life's difficult questions.

     By the end of the first ensemble number,“Tradition,” the false beards seemed to be taking root. After Diaute tackled and conquered “If I Were a Rich Man” the audience seemed to forget that these were students. Elias Diaute was Tevye and the Lincoln Academy students were the young, the old, the peasants and the Bolsheviks of Anatevka.

     From the initial signature violin solo by Aidan Manahan, the music never falters. That's key because Fiddler's score (music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) is one of the most familiar in musical theater.

     Fiddler hangs on the stories of Tevye and Golde's three eldest daughters, Tzeitel (Shiann Keene), Hodel (Devin Domeyer) and Chava (Addison Vermillion). The young women yearn to find love their own way, rejecting the efforts of matchmaker Yente, played with a comic turn by Rowan Carroll- Christopher.

     The trio provides heart when they plead with Tevye for permission to lead the lives they want. One  young audience member called out “You go, girl,” in support of their brave choices.

     Arranged marriages were the tradition in many cultures of that day, indeed Tevye and his wife Golde (Abbey Hutchins) met on their wedding day. Throughout the play, Tevye complains about Golde to God and Golde crabs about Tevye to him directly.

     A touching moment comes in the second act, when Tevye asks Golde, “Do You Love Me?” The duet is spot-on with a chance at last to hear Hutchins lovely voice. Diaute and Hutchins do a convincing job as a poor couple with five daughters and a long history together.

     As Tzeitel, Shiann Keene makes the most traditional marriage. Not the one arranged by the matchmaker but still a local youth who shares both the tradition and religion of Tevye. Gabriel Ferraro offered up the epitome of Motel the Tailor. His fear of Tevye is overcome, almost ,by his affection for the eldest daughter.

     Hodel ( Deven Domeyer) falls for a revolutionary student, Perchick, played by Mickey McAtee. Domeyer has two of the loveliest songs in the score. Her duet with McAtee “Now I have everything” is well played and beautifully sung. The heart wrenching farewell  Far From the Home I Love” sung to Tevye as she leaves for Siberia to be with her imprisoned love, had audience members in tears.

     Tevye struggles with the choices made by his two eldest daughters, but comes to an acceptance of them. However, his favorite child, third daughter Chava ( Addison Vermillion) goes too far.

      The village is ransacked by the Russians in the beginning of a Pogrom. Russian soldier Fyedka ( Channing Nelson) marries Chava in a Catholic ceremony. Tevye mourns the loss, saying she is dead to him, in the lament “Chavela” where Vermillion dances beautifully with her mother and sisters in his dream.

     “Fiddler on the Roof” offers choice roles to many actors and actresses. In Lazar Wolf Braeden Waddel) there is an antagonist for Tevye who backed out of a promised match. “Tevye's Dream” was hilarious. He cooks up a nightmare to explain why he is allowing his eldest to marry without a matchmaker.

     As Grandma Tzietel , Mena Han -Lalime was a show stealing ghost atop a wedding dress 10 feet high. She was simply a hoot while Fruma- Sarah ( Kate Westhaver) as the dead wife of Lazar Wolf, cries out for her pearls that a new bride might wear.

     The ensemble cast features Sam Bailey, Michael Juchnik, Ed Franconis, Liam Dworkin, Mary Catherine Eddyblouin, Johanna Neeson, Caleb Eugley, Sam Jones, Jonah Vesery, Jonah Diaute, Samantha Burke, Eloise Kelly, Channing Nelson, Tessa Walsh, Audrey Harper, , and Ed Frankonis.

    Fiddler requires dance, and this group delivers. Three group numbers were started in an ensemble workshop with Debi Irons of ArtMove. Robin Vermillion designed the Chavela ballet. Student Elaine Fitzpatrick skilfully did both the Bottle Dance Chroegraphy and Performance,. “Matchmaker” was choreographed by Devin Domeyer, Addison Vermillion and Shiann Keene.

     Director Griff Braley has once again brought his vision to a classic musical. Letitia Munson designed and built a striking moveable village which allows set changes to move fluidly, never distracting form the story.

Costumer Sue Ghoreyeb dressed the show with an artists eye. The outfits may be comprised of the same basic parts, no two are alike. 

     Vocal coaching from Beth Preston and Music Direction by Sean Fleming allows young voices to be augmented with instruments and to soar on their own merits.

     There's much to smile about and shed tears over in the classic musical. Comparisons are inevitable between 1905 Russia and today. Change is inescapable, and today's headlines show that people the world over continue to be persecuted, even killed, for their beliefs.

Lincoln and Heartwood’s “Fiddler on the Roof” is a great night at the theater.         

    This “Fiddler” gives truth to the adage, “It Takes a Village.” In this village of Anatevka cast, crew, orchestra ,directors and volunteers make the people and the customs of 1905 Czarist Russia come to honest life.

    It's an ensemble in the most true sense, the kind of troope that draws back the audiences time after time.

     It's a shame that some folks will miss out on this show because the seats are sold out. The days are gone by when a last minute decision to attend can find a seat easily. Next time Heartwood and Lincoln collaborate audiences are encouraged to reserve seats very early. It's worth the planning.

     Bravo to all involved with “Fiddler on The Roof.”


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