Fiddler on the Roof…it’s all about “tradition” Reply

 Review by Tina Gaisin

The story was taken from the original Sholom Aleichem adaptation. The author experienced and captured the essence of Jewish culture & life in the Eastern Europe of the era before WW I & the Bolshevik Revolution.   First, a little history. Tsarist Russia in the early 1880’s under Alexander III created the Pale of Settlement; a restricted area for Catholics & Jews. Parts of Poland; Lithuania; Belarus; Ukraine & Moldova encompassed the zone. Progroms plus constraints were rife and led to emigration.  The attacks and educational limitations occurred again from 1903 – ‘06 coinciding with the ascension of Nicholas to the throne. Again, the Jewish community was forced to escape west …Europe or the New World were the choice destinations.

the Yiddish dancers of ANATEVKA!

The tale starts in Anatevka, a Ukrainian stetl circa 1905.  Tevye, the main character is a father of 5 girls who talks to God and asks for His help as he goes through life’s challenges with his religion and the changing world.  In last night’s performance Steppin’ Out Theatrical Productions put on an outstanding rendering of “Fiddler on the Roof”.  From opening curtain there were children playing on stage, along with the ‘Klezmer-like” orchestra including the metaphoric -“Fiddler”.   Fine details and much thought were put into this musical.
The costumes; set design; choreography and props were truly magnificent. Minutiae such as the candle lighting; Challah kneading, Torah and cheese design all demonstrated directorial affection, focus and respect.  The entire cast filled up the stage with their presence and although the whole ensemble was truly amazing; shining above them were Tevye (Gord Peters) and his three daughters Tzeitel (Alisse Lee-Goldenberg), Hodel (Kaitlin Lane) and Chava (Lauren Wolanski) whose voices and on-stage presence was beyond words.
I appreciated the flow of the production with modern day nuances with the musical numbers impeccably done and the entire full audience was so engaged that they clapped and hummed along with the ensemble.  The only downfall was the several audience-members whose cell phones went off during the performance and did not stop.
The play’s theme, both in philosophy and music –“Tradition” (played more than once and each time different than the last) carries the message of what each generation faces as offspring & events evolve and modernize. This is the rationale behind Fiddler’s popularity beyond just the Jewish community. Oriental versions are still being performed. The composition “Matchmaker” may be outdated but still is embraced by some South Asian cultures. Everyone buying a lottery ticket can empathize with Tevye’s plaintive “If I Were a Rich Man”, hoping that they do might “spoil some vast eternal plan”! The Sabbath Prayer sequence and the ubiquitous “L’Chayim -To Life” with their dancing by both the Jewish characters and their Russian counterparts were well do  ne and choreographed beautifully!
There is a Dream Scene wherein Tevye hopes to sway his wife.  I was not sure how they would do this onstage and I was pleasantly surprised at the ingenuity of this scene. The bed in which Tevye and Golde were lying, actually had them standing up.  The entire sequence was extremely well thought-out and I was crying and laughing at the same time. The inclusion of animals; I felt was a great twist.  I will not give away all the details.  “Sunrise Sunset” and the wedding scene were beautifully done and the use of the trees onstage moving made us envision that the scenes were changing.
Staging Fiddler took a year in production by Brian & Regina Kreiser Lee and three months of cast rehearsals. One must be very impressed by the way that everyone worked together especially with a large ensemble. Meeting them personally gave this writer an insight into the details that are challenging but intrinsic to putting on a performance. FIDDLER runs until Nov. 25th.

Steppin’ Out is an amazing theatrical production company celebrating their 5th anniversary. Future presentations are “Gypsy” in March and “Your Song” in June of 2013. Again the venue will be Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts


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