“Fiddler on the Roof” reviewed by Michael Horn

Category: Theatre Reviews

*****2014 marks the 50th anniversary of “Fiddler on the Roof” and Light Opera Works is celebrating this milestone with its lively and stirring production which opened last evening at the Cahn Auditorium in Evanston. The multi Tony Award winning Fiddler is one of our all-time classic musicals, blending history, themes of family, faith, culture and values, all in a quickly changing world. It’s music is memorable and inspiring from beginning to end. The plot is based on short stories written around the turn of the 20th century by Sholom Aleichem, often called the Russian “Mark Twain”. His work led to the book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, and an original production that played on Broadway for 8 years!

Fiddler begins as we see Tevye (Alex Honzen), a Jewish milkman, telling us about life in his town, Anatevka, Russia. It is 1905 and times are hard, people are stressed, life is as precarious as a fiddler on the roof, but, through their traditions, they can survive! The opening number, “Tradition,” performed by the entire cast is well staged, nicely choreographed, and leads us into the lives of the village residents.
Tevye has five daughters, three of marrying age, and one of the prominent conflicts in this tale is a struggle with arranged marriages versus marriages for love. Matchmakers who arranged marriages were a “tradition,” but Tevye is challenged by his free thinking daughters who are not so quick to accept tradition, and he must cope with the possibility of change. The lovely song “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” is nicely performed by Tzeitel (Yael Wartens), Hodel (Katelin Spencer), and Chava (Meredith Kochan).

Tevye also must deal with Golde (Jenny Lamb) his headstrong wife, not an easy task, but he always seems to manage. Through their relationship, we can see the collision of old versus new, and their uncertainty as the story unfolds. “Do You Love Me” is performed from the heart and captures the emotion that they share.

Of course this is pre-revolutionary Russia and there are also political changes brewing, some of which have a profound affect on Tevye’s family and village. These changes are reflected in Perchik (Tim Rebers), the student activist, and the Constable (Russell Alan Rowe), who is the messenger of change. In a nutshell, Fiddler is about trying to maintain strong cultural traditions and identity in the face of a continually changing world, partially fueled by the youth, that doesn’t necessarily share the culture’s values or self-assessment of worth.
This is a large cast and every actor is energetic and contributes to the success of the endeavor. Alex Honzen is a fine Tevye bringing his booming voice to the role. I really like the way he portrays Tevye with just the right balance of humor, seriousness, and angst. Jenny Lamb portrays Golde with eveness and thoughtfulness, trying to keep Tevye in line. Marian Kaderbek plays Yente the Matchmaker and she shows you what a matchmaker is all about.
Cahn Auditorium is a perfect venue for this large and ambitious production. It is skillfully directed and strongly choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller who deftly transitions each scene/number and the large troupe of cast members are wisely and effectively managed. The music, directed and conducted by Roger L. Bingaman is beautifully performed by a twenty-three piece orchestra . The set by Adam Verness is really quaint and captures the essence of a turn of the century small town in the hinterlands of Russia. The costumes by Jesus Perez and Jane DeBondt are perfect and the lighting by Andrew H. Meyers is excellent.

Fiddler is a portrait of love, laughter, devotion, and defiance. It is a wonderful story for all ages and this production will keep you happy for it’s 2 hours 55 minutes.
Fiddler on the Roof presented by Light Opera Works
Runs August 9–24, 2014
Cahn Auditorium
600 Emerson, Evanston, IL
Sunday, August 10 at 2 pm
Wednesday, August 13 at 2 pm
Friday, August 15 at 8 pm
Saturday, August 16 at 8 pm
Sunday, August 17 at 2 pm
Wednesday, August 20 at 2 pm
Saturday, August 23 at 8 pm
Sunday, August 24 at 2 pm
Tickets start at $34
Age 21 and younger: 1/2 price
(suitable for 10 and older)
tickets at: www.lightoperaworks.com
Tickets also by phone:
(847) 920-5360
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Fiddler on the Roof”