BWW Reviews: Encore Dinner Theatre Has a FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Tradition. Most of us were raised with traditions, whether we're Jewish, Irish, Mexican, Indian...nationality, religion do not matter. What does... if we were brought up to respect the rules, it is sometimes difficult to change. Many of us do not wish to pursue new ways, to face the unknown; it's scary, but change may be for the greater good. Tevye and his family sing about "Tradition" in Fiddler on the Roof, one of the greatest classic musicals of all time. Now onstage at Encore Dinner Theatre in Tustin, Fiddler is a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of family and making one's way through life's shaky journey. This production, directed by Michael Lopez, is lovingly conceived from top to bottom.
For those unfamiliar with Joseph Stein's book, and Bock and Harnick's precious score, I will say a few words. The Jewish culture in the Little Village of Anatevka, Russia in 1905 was about to change with the dawn of the Russian Revolution. Tevye (Cliff Senior) and Golde (Jenny Wentworh) have three daughters: Tzeitel (Katherine Tracy), Hodel (Abigail Schwartz) and Chava (Erica Schaeffer). In the Jewish tradition, all three wish to be married under a canopy with a rabbi and family in attendance. Tzeitel marries Motel the tailor (Charlie Myers) in this traditional way, but Hodel falls in love with a radical thinker, teacher Perchik (Brock Joseph), not from Anatevka, and Chava with Fyedka (Taylor Simmons), a Russian soldier who is not of her faith. Hodel leaves for Siberia to be with the imprisoned Perchik, and Chava is shunned by Tevye, who refuses to bend further to accept her liaison. Tevye is a dirt poor dairy farmer who wants wealth "If I Were a Rich Man", not only for himself, but for his daughters. He strikes a bargain with butcher Lazar Wolf (Glenn Reis) to wed Tzeitel, but Lazar is old, not Tzeitel's choice. Tevye compromises reluctantly with Motel as a son-in-law, but it is difficult for him to accept Hodel's radically different wishes...and impossible to accept Chava's. Eventually, with the onset of the revolution, the family is forced to gather their belongings and move on. Tevye remarks, "Maybe this is why we always wear our hats." Throughout history the persistent injustice toward the Jews uprooted them. Enough said about plot and theme.
There are two ways to play Tevye, either in a very big, broad manner as did the original Zero Mostel or more pulled-in, suffering, let the chips fall where they may like Topol. It makes sense, as for the most part, Tevye is easy-going, constantly weighing his choices: his consistent use of the phrase on the other hand gradually leads to an agreement or compromise. I have seen Tevye played big and subdued. Mostel was an expert comedian and really brought out the humor in the piece. Topol concentrated more on the character's inner feelings, but his playing of the role was equally winning. Cliff Senior, like Topol and reminding me a bit of Walter Slezak, has a low-key approach to the part, and he and his real life wife Jenny Wentworth do extreme justice to both Tevye and Golde. They are obviously comfortable with each other, and their chemistry works beautifully onstage. "Do You Love Me?" really sparks.
In the supporting cast, Tracy, Schwartz and Schaeffer give solid performances as Tzeitel, Hodel andChava. Myers, Joseph and Simmons are equally fine as their suitors. Simmons is one terrific dancer to boot. Reis as Lazar Wolf, Chrissie Oppedisano as matchmaker Yente, Robin Walton as Rabbi, Joshua Youngs as Fiddler and Matthew Ballestero as Mendel - he can really hold that musical note! - all lend great support.
Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. Don is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.
Don is a member of the prestigious Road Theatre Company in NoHo and is in his fifth year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page.
- BWW Reviews: An Uber Cool Spider Saloff Brings Her Cool Yule to Rockwell
- BWW Reviews: GCT's Annual CHRISTMAS CAROL Has a Bright New Look
- BWW Reviews: Encore Offers A Sinatra Christmas Songfest Through the Holidays
- BWW Reviews: Continue to PLAY DEAD - If You Dare - at the Geffen Through the Holidays
- BWW Reviews: A Mirthful Kritzerland Christmas III Plays Sterling's
- BWW Interview: Triple Threat Tracy Lore Explores A CHRISTMAS MEMORY and Extols Her Life as a Character Actress
- BWW Reviews: Colony Theatre's MIRACLE ON SOUTH DIVISION STREET A Deliciously Amusing, Thought-Provoking Holiday Diversion
- BWW Reviews: Pantages Brings Back Ever Reliably Appealing LION KING for the Holiday Season
- BWW Reviews: Bourne Amazes and Thrills with New SLEEPING BEAUTY
- BWW Interviews: Actress/Singer Spider Saloff Talks About the Music Business and Her Appearance at Rockwell on December 3