1964 musical aims for a fresh twist

`Fiddler on the Roof ' brims with life despite challenges


September 15, 2006|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,special to the sun

Fiddler on the Roof is called a classic with good reason -- just about everyone knows the story of a father struggling to hang onto religious and family traditions, or some of its many enduring philosophical songs, including "If I Were a Rich Man," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and "Sunrise, Sunset."

Making the 1964 musical seem fresh requires a great cast and crew.

Pasadena Theatre Company has both, bringing together a show brimming with life on opening night at its new home, Kerr Performing Arts Center in Severn.

Producer Sharon Steele and director Chuck Dick have produced a fast-paced show that makes innovative use of the new space. In some musical numbers, members of the 51-strong cast entered and exited from the aisles or sang from them, creating a kind of live surround sound. The 15-piece orchestra under the direction of Tom Jackson was placed on a wing at stage right.

FOR THE RECORD - A review of the play "Fiddler on the Roof" that appeared in the Sept. 15 Anne Arundel edition incorrectly reported who played the character Fyedka. He was played by Brandon Hendrickson.
The Sun regrets the error.

The backdrop was beautifully painted, with well-constructed sets and props. The drab, mostly neutral costumes evoked the period.

Such a large theatrical production posed challenges for the company in its new venue. There were several instances of balance problems, with the orchestra overwhelming individual singers.

But the major requirement of any Fiddler production is having a larger-than-life Tevye, who must combine self-deprecating comedic skills with the devoutness of a man who converses with his God familiarly and frequently. Tevye's essence is conveyed in the lyrics he sings: "To life, to life l'chaim. Life has a way of confusing us, blessing and bruising us. Drink l'chaim, to life."

A skilled actor who sings well and naturally projects warmth, Chuck Dick was mostly convincing as Tevye on opening night, although his first number, "Tradition," needed more emotional commitment and zest, as did his "If I Were a Rich Man," which should have been an early show-stopper. As the evening progressed, Dick seemed to grow more comfortable in the role, delivering a heartfelt "To Life" and "Do You Love Me?" in duet with his long-suffering wife, Golde.

Possessing strong acting chops, sharp comic timing and a lovely voice, Christy Stouffer was excellent as Golde. The roles of their five daughters are double-cast. When I saw the show, Christa Ladny played eldest daughter Tzeitel and projected her character's determination to marry the man of her choice -- poor tailor Motel instead of wealthy butcher Lazar Wolf. Ladny helped to create a sparkling "Matchmaker" with her sisters, Hodel and Chava.

Also contributing to "Matchmaker" and "Miracle of Miracles" was Olivia Ercolano as Hodel, who falls in love with teacher and revolutionary Perchik.

Kerry Cornelius was excellent as Chava, who wanted to marry a non-Jewish Russian, Fyedka, well played by Brandon Deitrick.

Carly Snyder and Alex Crilly played the youngest daughters the evening I attended. Other strong performances came courtesy of Vincent Van Joolen as butcher Lazar Wolf, Joan Ashwell as Yente, Logan Marston as Motel, Mark Tyler as Perchik, Greg Coale as the Rabbi, and Ed Wintermute as Avrahm.

As an ensemble, the cast performed a touchingly devout "Sabbath Prayer" and a lovely, reflective "Sunrise, Sunset." The dance numbers were filled with energy, particularly the fabulous "To Life - L'Chaim," which featured a fine Wedding Bottle Dance, and a lively "Nas Drovia" dance segment.

The dream sequence conjured up by Tevye to convince Golde that her Grandma Tzeitel (Nadja Maril) wants to see their daughter's engagement to Lazar Wolf broken was humorous but somewhat confusing with too much going on simultaneously.

Pasadena Theater Company's Fiddler on the Roof runs weekends at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m., Sunday through Sept. 24 at the arts center at Annapolis Area Christian School, 109 Burns Crossing Road in Severn. Tickets cost $10 for students and children and $12 for adults and seniors. Discounted tickets are available in advance for groups of 20 or more. 410-975-0200 or www. pasadenatheatrecompany. com.

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