note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey
The beloved musical, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, gets a sparkling new production at Turtle Lane Playhouse. If you think you know the musical, you’ll be surprised by what director Jerry Bisantz does with Sholem Alechem’s magical story of the milkman with rich dreams.
Most FIDDLERs go for broad comedy but Bisantz banished all shtick, making the story more realistic and the characters more human. Yenta, the matchmaker, for example, is usually played just for laughs but at Turtle Lane she’s a frail old lady who desperately wants to socialize. Ruth Markind makes you really care about the poor, fragile old soul.
Golde, too, is usually portrayed as Tevye’s disdainful, short-tempered wife. At TLP she’s just overwhelmed with work. Kristin Hughes makes her a real mother and wife for Michael Lapomardo, Jr’s exasperated Tevye. Their “Do You Love Me” is sweeter yet because the pair are younger than in most FIDDLERs.
Mind you, the show is still lots of fun. Bisantz even adds a giggle or two, like the tiny phantoms for Tevye to fight off in the hilarious Fruma Sarah dream. Music director Paul Huberdeau gets fine work from the chorus, making the ensemble numbers especially welcome…and poignant.
The entire production is bursting with charming performances: From Wayne Fritsche’s lanky Motel, the tailor, to Jessica Shulman’s feisty Tzeitel; From Rob Kilmeczko’s determined Perchik to Mary Mallen’s lovely Hodel; From Chuck Walsh’s classic Russian Tenor to Will Morningstar’s earnest Rabbi’s son. Patricia Strauss’ ballet for the ethereal Eleni Kmiec (Chava) is especially moving. Even Lazar Wolf (David Nestlebaum) is a mensch in this truly kinder, gentler FIDDLER.
Even before the musical starts, we see a soft orange Anatevka sunrise/sunset (Jeff Gardiner) over Ronald L.Dion’s Chagall inspired “tumble-down” house. Richard Itczak’s clever period costumes and fanciful ghost attire for Tevye’s faux dream are one of the many pleasures in this brave new interpretation of the Boch-Harnick masterpiece. Mazel Tov!