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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Fiddler on the Roof
By Elyse Sommer
Of course, Fiddler. . . is one of the musical theater's greatest and most indestructible shows, and inspired collaboration for musicalizing Scholem Aleichem's stories by librettist (Joseph Stein), composer (Jerry Bock) and lyricist (Sheldon Harnick). The famous milkman's "on the other hand " ruminations, the richness of the book, the gorgeous songs and vivid dances make even a production that doesn't shine on all counts failure proof. Still, it's a thrill to see everything so gloriously realized by this company.
Like Teyve and his family and neighbors, Barrington Stage's founder and artistic director Julianne Boyd has wandered from the company's startup in a bar, to various temporary locations, the Sheffield High School auditorium to her own beautifully restored home in Pittsfield (two homes, if you count their newly owned nearby Second Stage). BS's journey adds a special touch of poignancy to Teyve's exodus from Anatevka which inevitably chokes me up,. Watching Brad Oscar and company wander into the unknown on this stage does underscore that this sad ending is also hopeful since so many families like Teyve's found safe havens where they could thrive-— and even start up theater companies., or become actors and directors, to prove it, Barrington Stage has compiled a brochure included with the program in which the Fiddler director, music director and cast share their family stories.
Given the standout studded cast it's impossible to sing everyone's praises. So let's start with Brad Oscar, who after winning a Tony for playing the nutty Nazi Franz Liebkind in The Producers took over the starring role of Max Bialystock. True to the tradition he espouses in his opening number, the bald-headed , big-voiced Oscar brings a fine blend of musical comedy performance skill and warmth to his performance. His delivery of the "on the other hand" talks with God is terrifically funny. He is also incredibly poignant as he segues from anger to acceptance of his daughters' tradition breaking choices which trigger his own "Do You Love Me? " with his wife (Johann Glushack, as a superbly realized Goldie who has great chemistry with Oscar). The final image of Oscar's Teyve conveys the bitterness, sadness and determination that that send him pushing his horseless wagon on its journey out of Anatekva.
The three tradition breaking older daughters (Rebecca Kuznick, Stephanie Lynne Mason and, Dawn Rother) are all charmers. and the actors playing the men they fall in love with are also ideally cast. Alexander Levin's fiery revolutionary Perchik is especially charismatic. Also outstanding is Jason Simon as Lazar Wolf, the rich suitor bested by the poor tailor despite Yente (Rachel Coloff), the matchmaker's best efforts.
I could go on, but you get the idea. From Oscar's central character to the minor villagers, everyone contributes to the overall enjoyment. With Barrington Stage's long time music director Darren Cohen on board, the score is pure heaven. Michael Bottari and Ronald Case have created true to period and place costumes in a pleasingly soft palette. Jack Mehler's fairly abstract set with its flexible exterior and interior house works very well to accommodate the large cast and numerous production numbers. The "Sabbath Prayer " scene, with Teyve's family inside their house and other family groups clustered all around showcases Jeff Davis's subtle lighting.
As for the dance numbers, given the stunning "Bottle Dance" and the "Wedding Dance" in which the entire village, including Teyve's own joyous break with tradition to dance with Golde, I''m hard pressed to pick a favorite.
The only downside to this Fiddler is that, like all summer theater, this is a limited run so see it while you can — and bring the kids. This is a show for people of all faiths, nationalities and ages.
For a list of the songs, see Curtainup's review of Fiddler's last Broadway production
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