Wine Country Theatre isn’t fiddling around with its most ambitious production to date.
The cast for “Fiddler on the Roof,” directed by Cynthia Anthony, comprises 30 actors, singers, dancers and musicians of all ages performing this classic Tony Award-winning musical, which first opened on Broadway in 1964. Not only are the vocals, dancing and acting a joy, but the play is sprinkled with witty and hilarious lines.
The audience is transported back to 1905 to a small Jewish community in the town of Anatevka in Czarist Russia, where the villagers live simply but contentedly, held together by tradition. (“Tradition” is one of the 16 songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Hardnick that the cast performs.)
Under beautiful night lighting, reminiscent of Marc Chagall’s painting “The Fiddler (Le violoniste),” Michael Whipp intermittently plays his instrument sweetly atop a roof.
The good-natured, philosophical Tevye the dairyman (played by Jacob Shearer) serves as the play’s protagonist and narrator. He constantly beseeches God to make him rich. (Shearer’s delightful “If I Were a Rich Man” is worth the price of admission alone.)
Tevye’s nagging, hard-working wife, Golde (Veronica Surber), is bent on finding a suitable husband for Tzeitel (Makenzie Hart), the eldest of their five daughters. Marriages arranged through Yente the Matchmaker (Beth Marshall) are the norm.
But the strong-willed teenaged girls, including Hodel (Christina Rogers) and Chava (Ashlyn Brookshire), have their own dreams about how they’ll live their lives and with whom.
The young men that the daughters prefer are tailor Motel (Sean McCallon), vagabond revolutionary Perchik (Thomas Grandoli) and Russian soldier Fyedka (Creston Cooper), none of whom pass muster with the parents.
Tevye constantly battles against changing times, fiercely sticking to tried and true ways.
Although there is no love lost between them, the orthodox Christian Russians and the Jews live in the same town, albeit in separate sections.
However, they frequent the same tavern, where Tevye meets with town butcher Lazar Wolf (Garrett Larsen), a wealthy middle-aged widower who wants to marry Tzeitel.
In a strikingly effective device, time stops and the bar patrons freeze as Tevye considers Lazar’s offer. When Tevye makes his decision, he buys drinks for the house. The Russians and Jews dance together drunkenly as they sing “To Life.”
Choreographer Saundra Woods gets kudos for the impressive dancing throughout the show. And Anthony and music director Mark Robertshaw got wonderful performances from the vocalists.
Anthony also handled the costumes, all fitting for the era and culture. David Linfield designed the terrific sets, from the village to Tevye and Golde’s farm.
In their bedroom, in a stunning scene, the butcher’s dead wife, Fruma Sarah (Kate Kravets), appears bigger than life as a terrifyingly wild apparition during a nightmare Tevye cleverly conjures up for his wife.
Yet there is an undercurrent of worse things than bad dreams and breaking tradition. A worrisome rumor has it that Czar Nicholas II’s army will evict the villagers, but with so much excitement going on, that’s put on the back burner.
The daughters are courted, weddings take place and disputes are settled. Although the story ends on a sad note, Tevye and his clan accept the changes, realizing that life is as precarious as a fiddler on the roof.
Contact freelance writer Lee Sutter at email@example.com.