Last updateFri, 15 Mar 2019 3pm

‘Fiddler on the Roof’: LLT hits the heights with first-rate production of much-loved classic

This season’s musical at Lakeside Little Theatre, “Fiddler on the Roof,” comes alive with a massive cast, crew, musicians and technicians.

In addition to the five-piece band on stage at all times there are another 20-odd cast members, singing, dancing and acting. It is a big production of a classic play, proving that community theater can rise to great levels.

The year is 1905, the dawn of the Russian Revolution in the small Jewish village of Anatevka where, we quickly learn, day-to-day life is steeped in Tradition. This is the first – and the ongoing theme of the play – of many wonderful songs that are the strength of Fiddler. When the villagers sing together, they rival the best choirs, certainly at Lakeside and elsewhere. Then there are the standout solos, all accompanied by the exceptional live quintet.

The book is written by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, based on stories by Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem. The musical numbers are entertainment enough, but between songs is a story well worth telling. Patrick DuMouchel, last seen in LLT’s “Chicago,” shines as Tevye, the dairyman and father of five daughters, all of whom must be married off. Not always easy when you have no dowry because your family is poor. But, not to worry, Tevye’s conversations with the Almighty reveal his ability to see more than one side of a situation. Helena Feldstein as Golde, Tevye’s wife and the mother of his brood, holds her own in her debut performance acting and singing. Her role is to bring up the rear, so to speak, and she does it with kindness and authority.

pg25Enter Yente, played by Carol Kaufman, who brings an air of authenticity to her debut role as the local matchmaker and gossip. Far be it from Yente to make a match based on love when you’ll soon have mouths to feed. But it’s a new century and girls are starting to have a different take on marriage and Tradition. Yente’s matchmaking days may be numbered.

Mining for young talent here at Lakeside, gems were discovered in Genesis Dutro, Trinity Dutro and Olivia Reeser, who play the three eldest sisters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava. These three young women can act, sing beautifully and exude just the right amount of passion and willfulness while trying to respect their father and his attachment to Tradition, though their own desires are of equal importance. Their younger sisters are played by Katie Hartup as Shprintze and Zion Dutro as Bielke.

Tzeitel’s suitor, Motel the tailor, is played by LLT first-timer Mark Donaldson and Hodel’s love interest Perchik by Greg Custer, last seen in “Time Stands Still.” Both actors are quite a bit older than their intended brides, yet both, through skilled acting and nuance, are totally believable as young men in love. Gabriel (Gavo) Casillas plays Fyedka, a non-Jew who sweeps Chava off her feet with his comedic timing and true heart. This is where Tevye and Golde’s longing to hold on to the old ways is really tested, a place they cannot reach despite their love for Chava.

With the Revolution’s gloom overhead, the play ends rather glumly. However, the characters have embraced an internal liberation that sets them free in personal ways. At the heart of the story is the Fiddler, precariously situated on a rooftop, playing for his life, for all lives. Through time immemorial humans do prevail.

Director Dave McIntosh, who pulls off a feat like no other, masters all of the many moving parts. The singing, dancing, moments of tenderness, political upheaval, changes of heart, forgiveness and loss are seamlessly woven together. In a show like this the director is not alone, and crucial contributors are Ann Swiston (musical director), Fleming Halby and Alexis Hoff (choreography) and Win McIntosh (stage manager), assisted by Bruce Linnen. All deserve credit for the production’s success.

The on stage orchestra is led by a well-disguised Judy Hendrick on keyboard, Jorge Verdin on keyboard, Eleazar (Chuko) Soto on soprano sax, Gilberto Rios on double bass and Daniel Medeles on violin, also playing the title role of the Fiddler. Their presence elevates the entire production, adding a layer of fun and professionalism.

The villagers may be in the supporting roles, but all deliver with gusto. Zane Pumiglia as Lazar Wolf, the town butcher and hopefully betrothed to young Tzeitel, balances his disappointment and resentment well. The Rabbi, Don Chaloner, blesses and Amens with the best of them. His son Mendel is played by Dennis McCary. Other villagers include Joy Cook, Garry Peerless, Robbin Del Nagro, Jeffrey Kingsbury, Beth Leitch, Bob Hendrick, Julian Labadie, Allyson de Jong, Kathleen Pharis, Connie Davis and Kina Dutro, many playing dual roles. The Russians are played by Dan Cook, Greg Clarke and Bruce Linnen.

Ruth Kear’s set design is exceptionally clever and well built to accommodate over 30 people on stage together. The town easily becomes Tevye’s home, then a tavern, then back to the town’s water well and meeting place. The construction crew is Earl Schenck, Richard Bansbach, Paul S. Washer, Bob Manning, Rick Bleier, Joel Smith, Terry Soden, Michael McGrath, Michael Koch and Brian Veale. The set painters include Ruth Kear, Sheron Brackenbury, Lisa Strauss and Roberta Hilleman. Christine Bott and Glynis Ellens are in charge of props. The stage crew include Leslie Kingsbury, Bruce Baker, Sue Moffat, Mike Moffate, Bruce Stanley, Eden Dutro and Kimberly Reeser.

The effective lighting is in the hands of Kevin Leitch and Alan Bowers. Sound is managed by Karen Lee. Johanna Clark and Marlene Syverson are in charge of the realistic costume. Beryel Dorscht, Leigh Christianson and Doreen Chaloner handle makeup for the entire cast.

Fiddler runs through March 1. Shows are sold-out, although cancellations do provide tickets to people on a waiting list. Contact the theater for more information.

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