Review: BWW REVIEWS: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at The Palace Theatre

Despite gloomy ending, classic show catches eyes and sticks in ears

By: Dec. 16, 2021
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Review: BWW REVIEWS: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at The Palace Theatre

When life seems at its most chaotic, ever wish life could be like a musical? That it could be filled with whimsy as the characters float from song to song? Seeing the first two offerings from Columbus Association of the Performing Arts' Broadway Series this season could serve as a cure for that yearning.

Following HADESTOWN with its gut-punch ending, the Broadway Series brings to Columbus FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, in which the battles of three strong-willed daughters against their father's traditions also ends in heartache. Nothing says "happy holidays" more than good old family dysfunction.

FIDDLER, which runs Dec. 14-19 at the Palace Theatre (34 West Broad Street in downtown Columbus), has everything a good musical should have: a solid plot that sticks with the viewer for months and months, excellent acting and singing, and catchy songs that leave indelible mark in the brain. Its ending, however, is also soul wrenching.

Set in 1905 Russia, FIDDLER follows the life of Tevye (played masterfully by Yehezkel Lazarov) who is clinging to the ways things have always been done in a world where those beliefs are constantly challenged. His three oldest daughters rebel against the custom of having the father approving of a groom before a couple can be wed.

At the beginning of the play, Tzeitel (Kelly Gabrielle Murphy) rejects her father's choice of Lazar Wolf (Andrew Hendrick), a much older, much wealthier suitor in favor of the bookish, destitute tailor Motel (Daniel Kushner). When he sees the happiness in his daughter's eyes, he concocts a wild story about a dream in which the spirits of his mother-in-law and Wolf's widow strongly advising against the union of Wolf and Tzeitel. Then he suggests his daughter marry Motel instead, thus saving face and his beliefs.

Later, Hodel (Ruthy Froch) skirts her family's customs by choosing to wed the rebellious Perchik (Solomon Reynolds) on her own terms. After learning that Perchik is headed off to Moscow to fight against the Czar, the two promise themselves to each other without consulting her father. After ignoring her father's approval, Hodel seeks his blessing on their union. To save face, Tevye reluctantly agrees to give the couple both his blessing and his permission (which they didn't seek or need) for the wedding.

In the second act, bibliophile Chava (Noa Luz Barenblat) is swept off her feet by fiery Fyedka (Jack O'Brien). The couple dates in secret because both know that marrying outside of the Jewish faith is an unforgivable sin. When Fyedka seeks permission, the normally affable Tevye feels he is being asked to bend the rules too far. When they defy him and marry anyway, Tevye pronounces his daughter is dead to him and sets up a heart-rending ending.

For FIDDLER ON THE ROOF to keep its balance, the show needs a solid Tevye. Lazarov, who has been on the national tour since 2018, handles the quirks and nuisances of his character with poise and charm. Called on to deliver such Broadway standards as "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Tradition." As his wife Golde, Maite Uzal is a perfect foil for Lazarov's Tevye and their duet in "Do You Love Me?" serves as one of the show's highlights.

Murphy, Froch and Barenblat are strong both as a harmonious trio especially on songs like "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," and develop their own individual identities on their own. Froch shines in the spotlight songs such as "Far From the Home I Love" and in her duet with Reynolds. While the sisters are somewhat similar, the suitors couldn't be more different. Kushner's Motel is squirrelly and meek while Reynolds's Perchik is passionate and idealistic and O'Brien's Fyedka is fiery and defiant.

FIDDLER without a strong supporting cast is like a steak without salt. Brooke Wetterhahn creates a robust, comedic presence as Yente the matchmaker. When a customer complains the woman Yente arranged for his son to marry is almost blind, she fires back, "Tell the truth, Avram, is your son so much to look at? The way she sees and the way he looks, it's a perfect match." Andrew Hendrick is frosty as Lazar Wolf, the scorned butcher, and Jason Thomas Sofge casts an intimidating shadow as the Constable who turns on the villagers.

The ensemble of Danny Arnold, Nick Berke, Andrea Marie Bush, Morgan Cohen, David Scott Curtis, Eddieomar Gonzalez-Castillo, Ansley Grace Hamilton, Jenna Harwood, Jonathan Hashmonay, Elliot Lazar, Randa Meierhenry, Carlye Messman, Ali Arian Molaei, Jacob Nahor, Max O'Connell, Honza Pelichovsky, Carly Post, Lauren Blair Smith, Alex Stone, Rosie Webber, and Scott Willits also plays a vital role in carrying the show to its completion.

This wonderful cast helps bring to life to the songs of lyricist Sheldon Harnick and composer Jerry Bock. FIDDLER, which won nine out of the 10 Tony Awards it was nominated for in 1964, is packed with so many Broadway standards including "Tradition," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "Sunrise, Sunset," and "If I Were a Rich Man," among many others.

Perhaps the message of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is blind faith practiced without mercy is often the first step on the path to destruction. Instead of another frothy Hallmark card during this holiday season, the show provides a guiding light for these troubling times. When he is reminded of a vengeful proverb that reads "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," Tevye responds, "Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless." If he had followed his own advice, the show would have had a much happier ending.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF's stint in Columbus is winding down with shows at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16, 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18, and 6 p.m. Dec. 19 with a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 18 and a 1 p.m. matinee on Dec. 19 at the Palace Theatre (34 N. Broad Street in downtown Columbus). For information and tickets, call 614-469-0939.


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