BWW Review: Spectacular FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Shines Its Way Into Your Heart at the Norris Theatre

Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, Fiddler on the Roof is one of the most beloved stage musicals of all time which so magically weaves music, dance, poignancy and laughter into such an electrifying and unforgettable historical experience. The Tony Award-winning musical has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its treasured tale of family and tradition, especially to those of us who can trace our origins back to the small Jewish Shtetels in Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th Century.

With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway in 1964 and ran for a record-setting total of 3,242 performances. The original production won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, as well as for score, book and choreography. In 1971, Fiddler on the Roof became an Academy Award-winning film, and the show has been revived five times on Broadway, and it continues to be produced around the world to much acclaim.

The Palos Verdes Performing Arts production of Fiddler on the Roof" continues through May 8 and features a live orchestra and a cast of 25 extremely talented actors perfectly cast in every role. It is produced by James W. Gruessing and directed by Randy Brenner, with choreography by Roger Castellano, and musical direction by Sean Alexander Bart, staged with remarkably versatile set pieces designed by Candlelight Pavilion and brilliantly lit by Christina Munich.

In this heartwarming musical, set in a poor Russian village at the turn of the century, the philosophical dairyman, Tevye (John Massey who fully brings the necessary humor to this much-loved character) attempts to honor and maintain ancestral and religious customs in his family, but times are changing. When dangerous forces threaten the village's way of life, Tevye's faith and love for his family give him strength to fight for his home and the traditions of his people.

His wife and daughters are played by Barbara Niles as Golde, Rachel Hirshee as Tzeitel, Carlin Castellano as Hodel, Kanani Rose as Chava, Ashley Jewel as Schprintze, Alana Besikof as Bielke, each of whom bring much joy to their roles as well as the fear of not minding what their father expects of each of them in regard to a worthy husband.

The three older daughters' suitors are played to perfection by Jonathan Brett as Motel, Luke Monday as Perchik, and Josh Wise as Fyedka. It is easy to see why their unique appeal wins them the heart of their chosen wife, with Motel especially appealing as he learns to speak up for himself against the blustery Tevye to win Tazitel's heart.

Martin Feldman as Lazar Wolf and Karla Franco as Yenta the Matchmaker add a touch of grandparent wisdom to their roles, with both understanding exactly where the humor can be mined to the fullest in their roles. Feldman allows us to see just how forgiving but still angry he remains about his failed attempt to win Tzeitel's for his wife.

Special kudos to the four dancers who accomplish the impossible by dancing with bottles on their heads during the wedding, a scene that is always a highlight of this musical, as is Tevye's dream sequence with Fruma-Sarah (Maggie Randolph) and Grandma Tzeitel (Tiffany LaBarbera Palmer) coming back to haunt Golde and Teyve into allowing Motel to marry Tzeitel. A very nice comic touch was having Motel pop up behind the bed headboards every time his name is mentioned during the song. But with Fruma-Sarah hovering so high above the others in the scene, it was tough to watch all of the clever choreography being done by the entire ensemble at the same time.

Very nice ensemble work is also done by the men on both political sides during Tevye and Lazer Wolf's wedding agreement celebration. And with such excellent casting and the magnificent score featuring such illustrious Broadway classics as "If I Were a Rich Man," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "Sunrise, Sunset" and "To Life," this is a production not to be missed!

Fiddler on the Roof performances continue through this Sunday, May 8 on Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Ticket prices range from $48-$58, with a $10 discount for children ages 12 and under. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at (310) 544-0403 or go to The Norris Theatre is located at 27570 Norris Center Drive on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There is ample free parking in the lot adjacent to the theater.

Photo Credit: Ed Krieger

John Massey (Tevye)

The Fiddler (Max Herzfeld) and Tevye (John Massey)

Tevye's daughters wish for husbands singing "Matchmaker, Matchmaker"

The men of the town ask God to please choose someone else for once.

Tevye joyously celebrates his daughter's upcoming wedding to Lazar Wolf in "To Life."

At first, Tevye refuses to grant Motel his wish to marry his daughter.

In a dream, Tevye is warned by Grandma Tzeitel and Fruma-Sarah about marrying Tzeitel to Motel, not Lazar Wolf.

The bottle dancers are always a highlight of the musical.

The Rabbi (Ron Rudolph) blesses Motel's new sewing machine.

Hodel sings to her father, Tevye, as she prepares to go "Far from the Home I Love" to join Perchik in Siberia.

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From This Author Shari Barrett