BWW Reviews: Village Brings the Charm and Heart with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
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by Jay Irwin
When your first introduction to a show is a bad one it can color your perception of the show for years to come if not forever. Such was the case of my experience with "Fiddler on the Roof" which I have always looked upon as just being long. Luckily Village Theatre currently has a production that is so filled with warmth, joy and heart that even a long time cynic toward the show as myself can come away with a great evening and even a little tear in his eye.
The story takes place in the Little Village of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia in 1905 as Tevye (Eric Polani Jensen) and his wife Golde (Bobbi Kotula) try to remain true to their traditions and faith while new elements from the outside world continue to creep in. Not an easy task as Tevye's three eldest daughters (of five) continue to fall for men who drive them further and further away from what was the norm. All the while the village also faces the looming threat of violence and eviction from the Tsar and his men.
Director David Ira Goldstein has assembled a cast and creative team that are nothing short of sublime. Jensen has created a completely loveable and identifiable character with his Tevye and you could not ask for better. Kotula is her usual incredible self with her sly glances and head tilts that can bring an audience to their knees with laughter. But she also manages to infuse Golde with a sweet yet guarded love for her husband. Each of the three would be bride daughters Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava (Jennifer Weingarten, Emily Cawley and Mara Solar) and their three outside of tradition suitors Motel, Perchick and Fyedka (Joshua Carter, Aaron Finley and Mike Spee) couldn't be more perfect for their roles and each other. Each shows off tremendous chemistry with their counterparts so you can actually see why and how they fell for each other. And the three girls' rendition of the iconic "Matchmaker" song is an absolute joy to behold as it not only sets up each of the characters but also makes their intentions and story paths plain.
But beyond the main family players I have to mention some of the outstanding supporting performers. Laura Kenny as the matchmaker Yenta is an absolute joy. Not only hilarious but with a stage presence that's a force of nature. And I would say that it was hard to look at anyone else with her on stage but since her big scene was with Kotula it just ended up as a blissful tug of war to see who could own the stage more. I almost didn't even recognize Matthew Posner as the aging would be groom Lazar Wolf and not just from the old age makeup. He practically disappears into the character. And with possibly one of the smallest roles in the show, Eric Ray Anderson's timing and facial expressions as the Rabbi continued to steal moment after moment throughout the show.
With a dazzling set and Chagall skyline from Bill Forrester and Julia B. Franz and wonderful choreography reproduced from the original Jerome Robbins sequences by Kathryn Van meter this production at Village is a complete winner. If it can make someone like me appreciate the show then they deserve praise indeed.
"Fiddler on the Roof" plays at Village Theatre in Issaquah through December 30th and then moves on to their Everett location running January 4th through the 27th. For tickets or information contact the Village box office in Issaquah at 425-392-2202 or in Everett at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.
Photo credit: Joy Koh