Fiddler On The Roof
New Rep Theatre Watertown
Through January 1
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
The current run of Fiddler On The Roof at the New Rep Theatre was extended even before it opened. Audiences had high expectations for this production which is being directed by Austin Pendleton. So, did Mr. Pendleton and company meet expectations? The answer is a resounding yes. They met and exceeded them.
This version is a joy to see in the intimate setting of the New Rep Theater. From the opening number, Tradition, it is abundantly clear Jeremiah Kissel is more than up for the role of Tevye. While Mr. Kissel may not have the vocal range for all of the numbers, he does have something more important; Kissel’s voice is warm and full of the decency and kindness that is embodied in Tevye.
Watching and listening to him as he sees life around him changing more rapidly than he can keep up with, and as he struggles with his adherence to traditions while also wanting the best for his daughters brings smiles and tears to the eye. Teyve is a man struggling with many things but who remains optimistic and humorous. His ongoing conversations with God reflect this. Jeremiah Kissel captures all of this.
Make no mistake, this is not a one man show. Director Pendleton has assembled a large and very strong cast for this production. Amelia Broome as Tevye’s wife Golde is perfect opposite Mr. Kissel. Listening to them sing together in Sunrise, Sunset and Do You Love Me? is a joy. Their voices convey a warmth and love that will melt the coldest of hearts.
Abby Goldfarb is radiant on the stage as Tzeitel, the first of Tevye’s daughters to rebel against tradition by pledging her love to Motel the tailor. Motel is played by Patrick Varner in an understated fashion that we soon realize encompasses the full range of growth his timid character experiences as he turns into a strong and confident husband. Varner is damn good in doing this. He is a joy when performing Miracle of Miracles.
When Joseph Stein and Jerry Bock first wrote Fiddler they must have had Bobbie Steinbach in mind for the role of Yenta. She takes over the stage as the busy body matchmaker who is seeing the breaks from tradition affecting her business. Just watching her walk on and off the stage is a pleasure.
Mr. Pendleton has the Fiddler, played by Dashiell Evett, remain on stage throughout most of the play. His silent presence can be interpreted as, perhaps, a witness to what is happening, or maybe as representing the traditions that are passing. At one point Tevye, while struggling with the decision to disown his daughter Chava (VIctoria Britt) because she has chosen to marry out of the faith, reaches over and joins hands with the Fiddler. It is a poignant moment as we feel the pain of this kind man forced into a terribly difficult position.
The choreography by Kelli Edwards does not disappoint. At first I thought it was going to be very toned down when the dance in To Life did not live up to my boyhood memories of seeing it performed by the Broadway touring company in the 60s. However, the bottle dance during the wedding scene was superb and had the audience clapping along as if they were participants. It is outstanding.
This is a production not to be missed. I would imagine tickets will be selling rapidly, so I would suggest you get yours soon. After seeing it I can guarantee you will leave the theater shouting L’chaim!
Photo credits: Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures
Fiddler On The Roof
Now though January 1st
New Rep Theatre
321 Arsenal Street, Watertown 617.923.8487