L'Chaim-to Life to "Fiddler on the Roof"


BONNIE GOLDBERG

When Tevye the milkman married Golde, he met her for the first time under the chuppah, the wedding canopy. Their union was arranged by their parents, as was the custom in the tiny corner of the world, a shtetl in Russia called Anatevka. Marriages also could have been conducted by a yenta, a matchmaker, who made her living "matching" young people for the purpose of matrimony.

To meet Tevye and Golde, who now have been blessed with five daughters and a life of poverty, run as fast as you can to Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam to witness the glorious production of "Fiddler on the Roof," ready to serenade you with joy until Friday, September 12. Written five decades ago with book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, "Fiddler" is the definitive musical comedy, a classic example of what the finest in Broadway theater can and should be. Max Chucker portrays the fiddler perched precariously on the roof, symbolizing the uncertainly of life.

Adam Heller embraces the role of Tevye with complete heart and spirit, at moments tender and compassionate, at others perplexed and concerned, questioning God and asking for His advice. Tevye is a good man, an honest man, a loving father, a patient husband, a hard worker who faithfully delivers milk and dairy products six days a week, even when his horse is lame.

Tevye knows who he is and what his role in life is and he accepts them.  While he acknowledges his village is inhabited by Cossack soldiers, he adopts a live and let live attitude of co-existence. When he sings "Tradition," he admits the major role his religion, Judaism, plays in his everyday existence. When Yenta ( Cheryl Stern), the matchmaker, arrives at their tiny home, she informs Golde, a devoted wife and mother in the hands of Lori Wilner, that she has news, wonderful news, a match for their eldest daughter Tzeitel, a lovely Barrie Kreinik, with Lazar Wolf (John Payonk), the prosperous but much older widower and butcher.

Unbeknownst to Tevye and Golde, Tzeitel has plans of her own to wed Motel (David Perlman ) the poor tailor, an arrangement based on love, one that is unheard of and unacceptable. When Tevye learns of their outlandish ideas, he feels like a willow tree that has to bend. He relents and puts his daughter's happiness first, before traditions. How he convinces Golde to agree, especially after he had sealed his pledge with Lazar Wolf is at the heart of this poignant tale.

Soon Tevye is tested again, when his daughter Hodel, a sweet Elizabeth DeRosa, wants to marry the radical student rebel Perchik (Abdiel Vivancos) and finally and irrevocably when daughter Chava, a pretty Jen Brissman, does the unthinkable and wants to cross the line of religious observance to marry the Russian soldier Fyedka (Timothy Hassler). Will Tevye finally break under the burden of change?

Each song in "Fiddler" is stirring and emotionally vibrant from "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" to "Sunrise, Sunset," to "Do You Love Me?" and every one in between. The orchestrations are crisp and insightful. This universal story of love, tolerance and forgiveness is directed with tenderness by Rob Ruggiero. The tiny stage at the Goodspeed Musicals vibrates with energy and electricity as dance numbers choreographed by Parker Esse  capture the thirsty soul. Nowhere does the pageantry of the spirit soar so high.

For tickets ($28 -- 82.50), call the Goodspeed Musicals, on the Connecticut River in East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed. org. Performances are Tuesday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Come help Tevye grapple with the immense questions of faith that swallow his small world as he bends and sways in the breezes of change.

 

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