The Perfect Musical, Presented Perfectly (Extended to Oct. 27)
Fiddler on the Roof is the perfect musical, and Stratford Festival has presented it perfectly to mark its 2013 season.
The story of Fiddler on the Roof, based on the memoirs of Sholem Aleichem, transcends all cultures. The lives of the Russians and Jews in 1905 Russian intertwine, and we see how the extreme poverty could lead to communism. The plot also covers all ages: the generation gap, rebellious children, and parents trying to protect the old ways while giving in the new. But it is the stories of family to which all theatre goers can relate: time, culture, geography all pale in comparison to the importance of human relationships.
Father Tevye takes great pride in upholding the traditions of his religion and family life. But like all generational clashes, his daughters (he has five) challenge him with their new and modern ways. The daughters mock the old matchmaker, who is busy trying to find them husbands. Eventually they find their own suitors, not sanctioned by the matchmaker, and as the three daughters marry and traditions are destroyed, life in the Russian village of Anatevka will never be the same. Along with the changes to family life are developments in the politics of Russia as the Tsar loses favour and communism is taking hold. Ugly anti-Semitism is also present.
Credit goes to director-choreographer Donna Feore for taking full advantage of the great story, and making it relevant today. She has brought together the 1905 stories with the 1964 Broadway opening and the 1971 movie, and made it all work in 2013.
Scott Wentworth is brilliant as Tevya. He makes the character warm and witty, not a buffoon as some actors do. Kate Hennig as Golde commands the stage, and demonstrates Golde’s no-nonsense attitude, but the character still has softness.
The three daughters are all excellent in the roles, played by Jennifer Stewart, Jacquelyn French and Keely Hutton. Hutton with her melodic voice is a standout. Their suitors, André Morin, Mike Nadajewski, and Paul Nolan perfectly represent the different and changing roles in 1905 Russia. Lee Seigel deserves special mention for his rich voice and holding the long note as the “To Life” tenor.
The choreography is amazing in all regards. The Russian Cossack dance scene in the bar room has great energy. Then many of them take on the role of the Jewish bottle dancers and astound the audience with their precision.
The set is simple yet interesting. Based on the art of Russian painter Marc Chagall, the fiddler is dressed to resemble Chagall’s work “The Fiddler” – from which this musical takes its name. Various items such as a rooster, a goose and a fish, inspired by Chagall’s work, hang above the thrust stage.
All elements have come together in this production of Fiddler on the Roof. It has a touching, human story, well-acted and relevant today. The rich voices in the beautiful songs are compelling, and the dancing is breathtaking.
Fiddler on the Roof continues in repertoire until October 20 at the Stratford Festival Theatre, Stratford. Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca
To see To Life, with the amazing Russian dancers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe7eOBeq-6w
To see the wedding, with the Jewish Bottle Dancers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVjXGWgvWuM
Fiddler on the Roof
Based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem
Written by Joseph Stein
Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed & Choreographed by Donna Feore
Musical direction by Shelley Hanson
Performed by Scott Wentworth, Kate Henning, Jennifer Stewart, Jacquelyn French, Keely Hutton et al.
Festival Theatre, Stratford Festival, Stratford
May 28 to October 20, 2013 Now Extended to Oct. 27
Reviewed by Mary Alderson