Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Village Theatre's 'Fiddler' features tradition and a fresh look

Photos by Jay Koh

As fun and as exciting it is to see a new Broadway musical, there is a reason why we go back to the classics again and again. For “Fiddler on the Roof,” you might say that is for “Tradition,” but a better answer would be because of its excellence as a performance. “Fiddler” has been around so long and has been performed by so many companies, that it would be easy to shy away from Village Theatre’s most recent production but that would be a shame. Village’s production is simple as it is unique. At first, the set appears to be extremely sparse, but this show has such a large cast, and after placing them all on the stage at once, you can see how the set is not too important after all.

While there is a fiddler in “Fiddler,” his part is more of a metaphor than anything else. The fiddler represents that how our lives can be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof. It is tradition that helps us to keep our balance. This is the philosophy of Tevye (Eric Polani Jensen) who serves as narrator and main character of the story. He and his village run their lives by tradition. Every member of the family have their own role and no one dares to go outside of tradition in this small Russian village.

Tevye has five daughters and each hope that Yente the Matchmaker (Laura Kenny) will make them a perfect match with one of the young attractive boys in town, but fear that she will pair them with an old man instead. The eldest daughter, Hodel (Emily Cawley) bucks tradition by having the audacity to fall in love with Perchick (Aaron C. Finley), a man who challenges the roles of tradition. The story continues with the town dealing with change.

For those who haven’t seen a production of “Fiddler” before, please know that while it features bouncy and happy tunes like, “Matchmaker,” the overall story has a deeper message. Tevye is a man of faith who has his own unique communication with God. He is dedicated to Him, but like us, he struggles too. He is a very real character. He and his wife Golde (Bobbi Kotula) share that they are both happy and sad that their daughter is getting married through the song, “Sunrise, Sunset.” Together, they have a very strong marriage and yet after over 20 years of marriage, they wonder though the song, “Do You Love Me,” if they really do. They have been following tradition for so long by honoring their pre-arranged marriage that falling in love was never an option for them.

The set has a storybook quality to it. The greatest feature of this production is the spinning stage which allows the actors much flexibility. The cast is amazing and it is a truly enjoyable experience. From the oldest actor to the youngest, there is no weak link with this chain. This is especially evident during a dream sequence where each actor represents puppets.

The only drawback with this production is that the actual fiddler, who is more or less just an antidote to the story, doesn’t actually fiddle. That job is provided by the orchestra down below. The lack of musical talent of the fiddler isn’t noticeable at the beginning of the play, but becomes more obvious later on. It isn’t a big deal, but it does provide a “Hey, look” moment and takes you out of the story for a brief time.

“Fiddler on the Roof” continues at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah until December 30. At that point, it will then travels up north to the Everett Performing Arts Center and continue from January 4-27, 2013. The Issaquah theatre is located at 303 Front Street North in Issaquah. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (425) 392-2202.
(Originally posted on Examiner.com)

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