Reviewed by Tony Annicone
New Repertory Theatre’s winter show is “Fiddler on the Roof.” Director Austin Pendelton, who was the original Motel on Broadway, breathes new life into this show. At times making the comic moments overpower some of the dramatic ones. The threat of the outsiders is watered down in this production at the end of Act 1 when everyone should be terrified of them. This musical takes place in Tsarist Russia in 1905 and is about a milkman, Tevye and his wife, Golde and their five daughters, his attempts to maintain his family and religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. The original Broadway show opened in 1964 and was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It remains Broadway’s sixteenth longest running musical in history and was the longest running musical for ten years. The expert musical direction is by Wade Russo who brings out the best vocal quality in his cast while choreographer, Kelli Edwards creates some splendid dance numbers to entertain the audience. The talented performers shine in their roles.
From the comic “If I Were a Rich Man” and “The Dream” sequence to “Sabbath Prayer”, “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Anatevka”, the musical numbers are splendid in this show. Austin has too much tongue in cheek moments and has the fiddler on stage as part of the action when he should be more unobtrusive. The best dramatic moments are with Tevye and Hodel as well as Tevye and Chava which tug at your heartstrings and is the heart and soul of this production. Wade conducts his 8 piece orchestra and they sound splendid, too. He taught the cast some gorgeous harmonies which soar especially in “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Anatevka.” Kelli’s dance numbers are marvelous especially “Tradition”, “Matchmaker”, “To Life” and the wedding dance and the athletic bottle dance. Leading this 26 member cast is Jeremiah Kissel as Tevye. He brings perfect comic timing to this role as well as the warmth it needs. His relationship with his wife and daughters are excellent. Jeremiah’s vocal prowess shines through in his strong delivery of his songs. His rendition of “If I Were a Rich Man” stops the show with laughter. His rendition of “Tradition” and his duets with Golde including “Sabbath Prayer”, “The Dream”, “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Do You Love Me?” are superb, too. His incredible poignant moments occur with Hodel in her solo and with Chava in “Little Bird” which brings tears to your eyes while the comic “To Life” and “The Dream” will leave you rolling in the aisles with laughter.
Amelia Broome as Golde, has a lot of chemistry with Jeremiah and shines in this role with her acting prowess. I last reviewed Amelia as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” and she delivers a strong performance in this role, too. She has the best singing voice of any Golde I have seen. Her adversarial relationship comes across splendidly and her admittance of love after twenty five years is topnotch, too. Amelia displays her soprano voice in the duets with Jeremiah. One of her funniest lines comes when she yells at Tevye after his drunken spree. Amelia displays the dramatic side of Golde when she implores Teyve not to disown Chava after marrying outside her faith. The young couples act and sing beautifully, too. Abby Goldfarb as Tzeitel and Patrick Varner as Motel deliver fantastic performances as the eldest daughter and her true love. Her strong singing voice comes through in “Matchmaker” and her interactions with her sisters are excellent, too. Patrick is hilarious as the timid, Motel who becomes the mouse who roars later in the show when he performs his solo “Miracle of Miracles”, displaying his strong baritone voice. Austin gave Patrick the strongest direction of the 3 young men in this show.
Sarah Oakes Muirhead as Hodel does an awesome job with her role. Sarah’s soprano voice soars in “Matchmaker” and is especially gorgeous in the gut wrenching “Far from the Home, I Love” which is one of the prettiest songs in the show. Ryan Mardesich does a good job as the outspoken revolutionary and displays his strong tenor voice in “Now I Have Everything”, one of the most difficult songs in this musical. Perchik comes alive in this song but Austin has him too laid back earlier in the show. Both of them display their dancing prowess in the wedding scene. Victoria Britt is fabulous as Chava and Dan Prior as Fyedka is wonderful. Victoria sings “Matchmaker” with Abby and Sarah and gets to tug at your heartstrings in “Little Bird” and the confrontation scene with Tevye when he disowns her. This is the best dramatic scene in the show. Dan Prior as Fyedka displays his tenor voice in the Russian section of “To Life”. Austin should have made him more forceful in the reprimand of Sasha scene when Fyedka defends Chava from the Russians. The dancers in the bottle dance are fabulous.
One of the funniest performers is Bobbi Steinbach as Yente. She steals many a scene with her caustic one liners. Bobbie’s long speeches are brilliant and she also delivers the goods in “The Rumor” song in Act 2. David Wohl is also comical as Lazar Wolf who wants to marry Tzeitel. His voice is heard with Jeremiah in “To Life” scene. Two other comic performers are Alyssa Rae Surrette as Fruma Sarah and Jocelin Weiss as Grandma Tzeitel as they sing in “The Dream” scaring the wits out of Tevye and Golde with their comic antics. The two youngest daughters are well played by Gabriella Ettinger and Carly Williams. So for a different take on this classic musical, be sure to catch “Fiddler on the Roof” at New Rep before the bottle dancers and Tevye dance their way out of Watertown for good on January 1.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (2 December to 1 January)
New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA
1(617)923-8487 or www.newrep.org