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Review: It's a Match with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at City Springs Theatre Company

Onstage at The Byers Theatre through October 22, 2023!

By: Oct. 08, 2023
Review: It's a Match with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at City Springs Theatre Company  Image
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Review: It's a Match with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at City Springs Theatre Company  Image

City Springs Theatre Company is back with their sixth season! This year, they’re opening with a classic: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, directed by Shuler Hensley

CSTC has introduced me to so many “classic” shows that I have had no experience with. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF was no different. 30+ years of life and I’ve never seen the show. It was a pure delight.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a musical adaptation (book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) of Tevye and His Daughters by Sholem Aleichem. The musical takes place in the village of Anatevka in the time of Imperial Russia around 1905. Tevye is father to five daughters and is attempting to maintain control over his family with outside influences working their way in. The musical ends with an edict from the tsar evicting the Jews from their homes across the village.

This is the first production CSTC has done after moving to a new production facility. The set produced in this new facility may have been simple and stark at a glance, but it was powerful on the whole. A large “tree” upstage center flanked by towering pillars. Small “houses” with singular lightbulbs were able to rise and fall to different levels, creating thematic vignettes throughout the show.

Review: It's a Match with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at City Springs Theatre Company  Image

While Tevye (Jacob Fishel) is the leading man, you very quickly fall in love with his three eldest daughters: Tzeitel (Carly Ann Lovell), Hodel (Leigh Ellen Jones), and Chava (Aliya Kraar). It was clear that each daughter was unique in their own way but united in their age and the future for which they are destined. Though you know these girls have no relation, they made you feel like part of the family. Each of their personalities shone, and their harmonies just worked, especially in the renowned “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”. 

Golde (Liza Jaine) was tough and feminine and beautifully maternal as well. She is contrasted, of course, by the more eccentric (but equally lovable) Yente (Courtenay Collins), the infamous matchmaker. 

Rounding out the cast are the husbands to our eldest daughters: Motel (Brian Wittenberg), Perchik (Haden Rider), and Fyedke (Roberto Mendez). Though minor characters, these gentlemen also brought different energy to the production. From Motel’s love to Perchik’s “radicalism” to Fyedke just being from a different culture, these actors brought their own flair. 

All Saturday matinee shows during this production have a talkback following the show. Some of the actors and creative team spent a few minutes chatting with the audience and answering some questions. It was during this time that we got an inside peek into Jacob Fishel’s transformation into Tevye. Fishel played Motel in a Broadway version of FIDDLER about 18 years ago, and returned to this production as the leading man. He commented that it was like he had come full circle from his earlier forays into the show. His castmates all shared how impressed they were by the extent to which Fishel had researched not only the show, but its history as well as its origin stories. When asked how he gets into character ahead of shows, he mentioned that he listens to nigoons set over jazz music, and then “goes back in time” to the more traditional nigoon of a single man communing with God through prayer. 

Review: It's a Match with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at City Springs Theatre Company  ImageBeyond Fishel’s preparation and research, he was just so darn endearing. He stepped into the role effortlessly, playing the man of the house, but also the soft father of five daughters. A man who wants to honor tradition but also honor what his family wants. His “on the other hand” rants reminded me so much of trying to rationalize any tough decision. 

While this production was so enjoyable, full of positive things to say, I do like to try and find at least one thing to critique (just to show that I’m truly watching the show with a critic’s eye). As far as this production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF goes? I wish they had gotten a fiddler who could actually fiddle. As far as I could tell, the fiddler had no speaking part and did not have to dance or anything. To that extent, I wish they could have cast someone who could play the fiddle. With so many productions having live musicians onstage, it just seemed like a missed opportunity.

The most beautiful thing about CSTC’s production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is the fact that this show is still in production and is as timeless as ever. There was no “modern interpretation” onstage. The show was just pure and did homage both to the people being represented as well as all the productions that came before it.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is at The Byers Theatre through October 22, 2023. For more information and to grab your tickets, head to www.cityspringstheatre.com.




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