2nd Star Productions’ Fiddler on the Rooftesttest
Fiddler on the Roof, Broadway and Hollywood’s golden chestnut, is rich as rugelach, oozing joy and pathos. The tale of a Jewish village in Revolutionary Russia was destined for success in the hands of 2nd Star Productions, a troupe with a track record of musical triumphs. But Oy! God is not always so quick to grant his blessings. Such an ambitious enterprise demands more chutzpah from its 39 chosen people than was evident on opening night.
Surely you know the story: Reb Tevye (Fred Nelson) is a poor mensch struggling to assimilate change into tradition as he and his kvetching wife Golde (Andrea Bush) raise five daughters. The three eldest — Tzeitel (Erin Lorenz), Hodel (Malarie Novotny) and Chava (Samantha Yangilmau) — fantasize about the husbands that matchmaker Yente (Ruta Kidolis) will find for them. Yet they turn their backs on custom and choose their own mates: Motel (Stevie Mangum), the young tailor who is Tzeitel’s childhood friend; Perchik (Alex Meyer-Stokes), a scholar and revolutionary who wins Hodel’s affections while boarding with the family; and Fyedka (Zak Fadler), a Cossack for whom Chava abandons her faith.
Further complicating matters is the arranged engagement between the old butcher Lazar Wolf (Tim Sayles) and Tzeitel, which Tevye breaks by relating a fictional nightmare in which Grandma Tzeitel (Cheramie Julianne Jackson) and the butcher’s dead wife Fruma-Sara (Samantha Feikema) promise dire consequences should the match occur. But happiness is fleeting in Anatevka, with Tzeitel’s wedding day spoiled by a pogrom under the leadership of Tevye’s pseudo-friend the Constable (Dave O’Brien).
A few performances stand out. Nelson’s hearty humor and fine voice make for a spirited If I Were a Rich Man and Tradition, though the role of Tevye needs more resonance and authority. Sayles is hilarious as the butcher, his To Life duet with Nelson being a highlight. Fadler’s brief solo in that number is so impressive it makes me long to see him cast in a more prominent role.
Mazel Tov to Novotny and Yangilmau for their farewell scenes: Far from the Home I Love and Yangilmau’s ballet sequence left me ferklempt. They, along with Lorenz, also deliver a fine Matchmaker. Feikema’s towering green ghost resuscitates a flagging first act, which then fizzles in an uninspired ensemble Sunrise, Sunset.
The ensemble’s two choral gems are Sabbath Prayer and the Anatevka finale; yet the singers are poorly served by a disjointed orchestra. The dancing is fun, especially the bottle dance. The innovative scenery is charming and the costumes accurate.
This is a fun show the whole family can enjoy. You’ll come away richer for the experience, humming all the standard hits and ready to rent the classic film.
Fiddler on the Roof: by Bock, Harnick and Stein. Director and set designer: Brian Douglas. Scenery and costume designer: Jane B. Wingard. Musical director: Joe Biddle. Choreographer: Christine Asero. Lights and sound: Garrett R. Hyde.
Playing thru June 30 at 8pm FSa; 3pm Su and June 30 at Bowie Playhouse, White Marsh Park, Rt. 3, Bowie. $20 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-757-5700; www.2ndStarProductions.com.