This 1964 musical, with book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, was based on stories written by 19th century writer Shalom Aleichem. But given today’s headlines, its themes resonate.
“Fiddler” is set in 1905 in the Russian village of Anatevka, during the pogroms, a heartless time of ethnic cleansing when Jews were forced from their homes. Here, we see Tevye, a poor man with a wife, Golda, and five daughters. He struggles with the seismic changes tearing his world apart and his desire for tradition, the glue that binds the community.
In the story, Tevye arranges a rich marriage for his oldest daughter. But she has fallen in love with a poor tailor. That strikes the first dissonant chord against the harmonic refrain, “Tradition!” Another daughter falls in love with someone he does not approve, then another. He looks to God for help in coping with the change.
It doesn’t take much of a leap to put yourself in his shoes. Daily, we deal with a quickly changing world where communication across oceans takes but an instant, where unexpected revolution takes center stage on Twitter, where human relationships break societal precepts. Throughout it all, like in “Fiddler on the Roof,” what endures is love.
Directed by Joan Taddie, the Henegar production explodes with talent and emotion. Be sure to read her director’s notes in the program. They concern, in part, the late theater technician Peter Feller, who donated to the Henegar two of the drops used in the show. Those drops come from the original Broadway production directed by Jerome Robbins.
Leading the cast is professional actor Bruce Goldman, who is as good as it gets. He brings such warmth to Tevye. He charms in “If I Were a Rich Man,” makes us laugh in “To Life” and wins the audience’s love in the “Chava sequence.”
Deborah Rappa-Crisafulli not only choreographs splendidly here — the Chava sequence is very beautiful and moving indeed — but she also brings passion to the stage in the role of Golda, Tevye’s wife. She’s particularly funny in the wonderful “The Dream” sequence.
What a find in violinist Jennifer Wills, who dons a beard to portray the Fiddler. Priscilla Blyseth is very funny as the gossipy matchmaker.
Kat Hopper is a delightful Tzeitel opposite Daniel Matteson, a most likeable Motel. Amy Pastoor takes wing as Hodel, opposite Hunter Curry, who is just terrific as the intellectual, Perchik. Curry shows a wonderful, rich voice in “Now I Have Everything.” Danielle Horak as Chava and David McQuillen Robertson as Fyedka charm.
Truly, this is a terrific cast. At every moment, whether they are in leading roles or in the ensemble, they act! Nothing better than crowd scenes filled with actors who really act.
So, too, are the musicians, who are led by conductor Robin Ryon. The pit orchestra sounds full, in tune and just right.
More kudos: Lighting designer Bryce Niehaus, scenic designer Davad Dionne and costume desiginer Louis Dall’Ava.
This show has all the right ingredients to become very demanding on the cast an crew. The word will spread quickly, tickets will start to disappear and Ms. Taddie will probably entreat her cast and crew to do some extra performances…after all, it couldn’t hurt.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Fiddler on the Roof” runs through April 1 at the Henegar Center for the Arts. Curtain is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. (The March 11 show begins 1 p.m.) Tickets cost to , handling charges may apply. The Henegar is at 625 E. New Haven Ave. Melbourne. Call 321-723-8698 or visit www.henegar.org.