Fiddler on the Roof Stratford Festival Book by Joseph Stein Music by Jerry Block Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore Festival Theatre Runs until October 20 Approximate running time: 3 hours (with one interval) Tickets: 1-800-567-1600 or online www.stratfordfestival.ca
Review by Geoff Dale
[Photo: Scott Wentworth as Tevye with members of the company in Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann]
Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Theodore Bikel, and Chaim Topol. Now quickly add the name of Scott Wentworth to that list of fine stage actors who have played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
In the Stratford Festival’s 2013 version, Wentworth is simply brilliant in the title role of Tevye, a decent man caught between the two suddenly colliding worlds of Jewish traditions and a new social order trumpeted by the younger generation – one that ultimately leads to the exodus from Czarist Russia to the brave new frontier in the United States.
It is an intriguing and beautifully etched portrayal of an earnest hard-working man, poor in worldly goods but rich in spirit, a good-hearted soul who finds himself, not a witness, but a participant in a rapidly changing world. Wentworth captures every essence of Tevye, with humour, grace and warmth.
What is truly remarkable about the latest Fiddler, that opened Tuesday night to sustained, thunderous and much-deserved applause, is that it is virtually flawless, beautifully acted by all cast members with superbly energetic dance numbers and lively wonderfully executed songs, by singers, dancers along with musicians directed with style by Shelly Hanson.
Whether it’s Wentworth breathing life back into classic tunes like Tradition or If I Were a Rich Man or the audience marveling at the mind-boggling sure-footedness of the bottle dancers Matt Alfano, Gabriel Antonacci, Stephen Cota and Julius Sermonia, this production is top notch and truly mesmerizing for a full glorious three hours.
Director-choreographer Donna Feore, in a triumphant return to the Festival, is unrivalled in her mastery of musical spectacles, creating what is guaranteed to be a surefire hit to the end of the production’s run on October 20.
For those unfamiliar with the history, the musical's title comes from the painting The Fiddler by Marc Chagall (born in Russia as Moishe Segal). It is one of many paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life. The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival in the uncertain life under the Czar.
For Feore’s Fiddler, set designer Allen Moyer cleverly incorporates a dark sky populated by surrealistic angels, devils, fish and fowl straight out of a Chagall painting, set against miniature homes below. Perched on one roof is the Fiddler, played by Anna Atkinson. For the proper mood, Michael Walton adds just the right applications of lighting, some brilliant and others subdued.
With the play structured to give virtually every cast member his or her moment in the spotlight, this talented cast takes every opportunity to show off their individual skills. Gabrielle Jones is delightfully annoying as the ever present busybody Yente. Jennifer Stewart, a gifted actor/singer is a winning Tzeitel, the elder daughter who marries the not-so-worldly tailor Mendel, played to perfection by Andre Morin.
Kate Hennig is both touching and boisterously funny as Tevye’s take-control wife Golde and is a delight when she shares the stage with Wentworth in the very moving Do You Love Me?Mike Nadajewski projects a very real sense of the changing world with his humanistic portrayal of Perchik, the suitor and ultimate mate to Hodel (Jacqueline French) and Steve Ross is at his blustery best as the loser-in-love, the butcher Lazar Wolf.
Without giving any details away, the Dream sequence is startling.
Not a moment is wasted in this eye-catching, pulse-racing production, an awe-inspiring tribute to Wentworth, Feore and a first-rate company of actors, singers, dancers and musicians that keep the audience spell-bound. The Stratford Festival retains its preeminence in the production of quality musical theatre.
An unforgettable presentation that shows live theatre at its finest and richly deserves **** out of 4 stars.
(Out of 4 Stars)
Geoff Dale is an Oxford County theatre reviewer and freelance writer/photographer, this review is also posted in the Theatre Review section of The Beat Magazine.
Photo: Scott Wentworth as Tevye with members of the company in Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann]