REVIEW: Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof begins with the precarious positioned fiddler playing a poignant melody and with the song Tradition. By the end of the play, the fiddler has no roof, tradition has been shattered and the family of Tevye, a milkman in the Russian city Anatevka, has been scattered by the winds of change. The story in between is the heart of the beloved Fiddler on the Roof, and it is alive and well as presented by CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center.

Tevye, played by Monte Fields, as in 2006, is the heart and soul of the story. He is the man, the father, head of his Jewish family and has the last word in the “Court of Tradition.”

The problem is that Tevye has a heart and sees both sides of the story. He is always saying “on the other hand” while in Jewish tradition in the small village of Anatevka in the Russia of the early 20th century there is no “other hand.” There is only one way, the way it has always been done.

Fields, as Tevye, manages to convey the essence of the milkman and highlight his dilemma: How do you bend without breaking? The answer seems to be that you can’t.

The set is bare bones, as it should be, and the costumes are traditional except for the wild Mardi Gras-like apparel of the dream sequence during which Tevye tricks his wife, Golde, played with panache by Carol Dines, into allowing Tzeidel, played by Margo Wooldridge, to marry Motel, the penniless tailor, played by R. Wayne Hogue Jr., instead of Lazar Wolf, the wealthy butcher, played by George Robert Bailey.

After that, the dominoes begin to fall and marriages to outsiders undermine tradition, which, along with the tsar and his government, destroy the safe haven of conventionality in Anatevka.

Tevye’s humorous, one-sided conversations with God and the old Rabbi’s (played by Jason Cooper) fervent wish that the tsar stay very far away reflect the changing times. God is no longer the Deity that actively led the Jews to the Promised Land or slew their enemies. The Tsar is no longer content to leave the Jews alone. Times have changed and tradition bends to the breaking point when Tevye is willing to say “on the other hand.” The religion of the Jews is intact when they leave their village of Anatevka but altered forever.

Fiddler on the Roof concludes CenterStage’s 2014-15 season. Next year’s season includes The Who’s Tommy; Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 The Musical; Oliver!; Big Fish; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Melissa Shepherd’s Patsy Cline: A Life in Concert; and The Rocky Horror Show. Get your tickets soon!

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