Fiddler on the Roof – 2024

Family Tradition

Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

A sign of a great theatrical production is its sticking power: revisiting it in your mind the next day, the following week, or even years later. Some performances will never be forgotten. So where does Fiddler on the Roof stand? I know this one will stick for a long time. “If I Were A Rich Man” is on a loop inside my head as I type this, with Alex Mustaka’s voice and mannerisms included. The calibre is, shall I say, through the roof! Having had a run at the Hamilton Family Theatre last fall, it has been brought to Huron Country Playhouse for the 2024 season.

Based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem that are set over a hundred years ago, and written by Joseph Stein, everyone can relate to the themes of family, tradition, resilience and change. The music of Jerry Bock and the memorable lyrics of Sheldon Harnick make this an enduring show. Everyone has heard at least snippets of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” even if they don’t know where the song comes from.

Drayton Entertainment Artistic Director Alex Mustakas’s character, Tevye, is the central figure in a traditional Jewish family and community in rural Tzarist Russia. He has three daughters of marriageable age, is well-known to the townspeople who buy his dairy products and is a respected member of the community. All in the village are poor and are people of strong tradition and faith. Arranged marriages, assisted by the matchmaker, have always been the custom. How did that tradition begin? Tevye admits he doesn’t know, but it is important to follow “Tradition” so when the matchmaker suggests that his eldest daughter should marry the local butcher, who has his eye on her, Tevye agrees. It doesn’t matter that the butcher is older than he is, but it’s helpful that he has a house, a servant and lots of possessions. Tzeitel, a girl with a brain of her own, prefers to marry her childhood friend Motel. Instead of acting like a brick wall and forcing her to marry the butcher, he debates all sides of the issue to himself and decides that she looks happy with Motel. But with each successive daughter, things become more complicated. Family issues are in the foreground as political issues push through with increasing intensity.

Alex Mustakas is the perfect Tevye with the right amount of levity as he asks God why this or that bad thing has to happen, and above all, why now? Mustakas is fully in character, right down to the smallest gesture.

Jesse Grandmont is stunning as the Fiddler, often taking his place on the roof of one of the houses. He’s not the youthful fiddler on the loose, or with a goose, or any of that. He’s a mature player, but still very sleek, playing with focus, precision and emotion. Only during the curtain call do we see the real Jesse, swinging his bow with swagger.

Gabrielle Jones captures Golde, Tevye’s wife, perfectly. From an arranged marriage herself, Golde only wants the best for her daughters but she is realistic about how difficult life is, so she can come across as a little harsh, but still has a soft side. Jones allows this side to peak through, particularly with her third daughter who is the most defiant.

The entire cast is praise-worthy. The three eldest daughters are excellently played by Colleen Furlan, Hadley Mustakas, and Annick Robledo. There is a very touching scene between father and daughter when Hodel is leaving on the train to be with her suitor, and it is even more poignant that they are father and daughter in real life.

The set and special effects exceed expectations. There is depth to the set which includes a forest backdrop with stars that shine at night. There are four homes with smoke wafting from some of the chimneys, yet there can be a quick shift to the set of a barroom or the bedroom where the stunning dream interpretation scene occurs. Costumes and hairstyles are realistic, and other than some of the beards don’t quite look realistic, there is a feeling of authenticity. The music is flawless and the choreography, including the great bottle dance, is perfect for the available space.

In today’s climate of increasing antisemitism and the setting being in Ukraine when it was part of Imperial Russia, it is a good time to bring back Fiddler on the Roof, though it is a timeless musical that is always worth seeing, especially when it is of this calibre.

Fiddler on the Roof continues until June 30th at Huron Country Playhouse, Mainstage Tickets are available by calling the Box Office at 519-238-6000, Toll-Free at 1-855-372-9866, or by checking for availability.

Photo:  Alex Mustakas as Tevye. Photo by Drayton Entertainment.

Fiddler on the Roof
Book by Joseph Stein
Directed and Choreography by Lisa Stevens
Musical Director Konrad Pluta
Performed by Alex Mustakas, Gabrielle Jones, Nico Solarte, Theresa Tova, Neil Barclay, Jesse Grandmont, et al.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Mainstage, Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 12 to June 30, 2024
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes


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