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‘Fiddler on the Roof’ fueled by sheer exuberance, great songs
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 11:15
By JOHN NORTH
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WAYNESVILLE —  HART Theater’s production of the often-revived musical comedy “Fiddler on the Roof” was nothing less than a sparkling jewel — and its universal theme remains relevant today.

Highlights included the high energy and enthusiasm of the performers, coupled with renditions of some of the greatest songs ever written for a Broadway show.

The show’s director, Steve Lloyd, who also is executive director of HART, was spot-on when he termed it “one of the best musicals ever written” in the show’s playbill. 

Under Lloyd’s sharpe-eyed direction, the show faithfully adhered to the theme on which it was written, and avoided succumbing  to the temptation of modern-day revisionism and political correctness.

“Fiddler on the Roof” was also HART’s biggest production of the year — and the July 8 show on which this review is centered was a near-sellout of the 255-seat James Auditorium. Reportedly, it was nearly a sellout on opening night, too.

The show, which ran July 7-30, featured a cast of 30, a live orchestra and elaborate costumes and sets. Opening night included a big bash in the theater’s lobby.

The much-beloved show, with the book written by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, was appropriately high-spirited and featured a musical score that is nothing less than stellar.

The central character is a Jewish milkman, Tevye (played masterfully by Jeffrey Streitfeld), who lives in a Russian shtetl in the town of Anatevka in 1905, on the eve of the Russian Revolution. Tevye constantly expresses his consternation, shakes his fist and jests with what he sees as an indifferent God. 

As outside influences encroach upon the family members’ lives, Tevye, the father of five daughters, attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions.

He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love instead of the parents making a suitable match, as per tradition. What’s more, each daughter’s choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of his faith. 

As the show ends, the Jews of Anatevka — under an edict from the tsar that evicts them from their village — are marching toward their unknown destinies in the shadow of a threatened pogrom.

Ultimately, “Fiddler on the Roof” is the story of the gradual disintegration of a family — and a community. 

In addition to Streitfeld’s top-notch performance of Tevye, especially good efforts were registered in the roles of dark-haired Golde (Lyn Donley), Tevye’s wife; and Tzeitel (Martine Rose), Tevye’s oldest daughter; and Yente, the matchmaker (Susan Rudniak).

The talented orchestra, directed and conducted by Daniel Hensley, included Isaac Fulk and Sarah McCoy, piano; Sabrina Kumar and Jim Anthony, winds; Sadie McLure, violin; Mary Jo Sparrow and Jai Kumar, brass; Jason Slaughter, brass/bass; and Dave Bruce, percussion.

Among the many standout vocal performances were renditions of such timeless classics as “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Miracle of Miracles,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Do You Love Me?”

“Fiddler on the Roof” is based on “Tevye and his Daughters” (or “Tevye the Dairyman”) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem.

The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. “Fiddler on the Roof” held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until “Grease” surpassed its run.

It remains Broadway’s sixteenth longest-running show in history. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography.

“Fiddler on the Roof” spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful 1971 film adaptation. The show has enjoyed enduring international popularity.

Prior to the recently completed  HART production, “Fiddler on the Roof” was performed at least twice before in the Waynesville area, including once in 1990, when Lloyd (the current HART director) first came to Waynesville, and once when the play was produced by the Chancel Choir of Waynesville First United Methodist Church.

Upcoming HART shows include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Aug. 4-20, in the new Fangmeyer Theater; and “The Loves of Elaine,” Aug 11-20, in the Feichter Studio.


 



 


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