Fiddler on the Roof Amazes Audiences in it’s 50th Year at VA Rep
Tradition arrives in RVA just in time for the Festival of Lights! The Virginia Repertory Theatre brings the quintessential Jewish musical Fiddler on the Roof to life for this holiday season to remind us that family is our most precious gift. And this cast certainly knows how to make us all feel like Mishpucha!
David Benoit is a triumph as the Papa, Tevye, and leads the company in an ecstatic and powerful opening performance of “Tradition”. This gifted Broadway transplant portrays the head of the house as a seemingly affable amalgam of Nathan Lane, James Gandolfini, and Christoph Waltz. His rendition of “If I were a Rich Man” elicits belly laughs galore!
Golde, the Mama, is brought to life in a serenely humble and brutally honest fashion by screen and stage actress Tamara Johnson. With perfect comedic timing and effortless congeniality, her performance commands respect from the audience in a very unique manner… It makes you want to love her as you would your own mother.
Fiddler celebrates its 50th birthday this year, and I feel like it may be safe to say that, aside from an engrained sense of laughing their way through hard times, the Nation’s plethora of Jewish comedians can be attributed to how absolutely hysterical this show is! Joseph Stein’s interpretation of Shalom Aleichem’s stories coupled with the musical power-duo of Bock and Harnick create some of the finest one-liner zingers of all time.
Originally Directed and Choreographed for Broadway by Jerome Robbins (West Side Story), Richard M. Parison Jr. and Karen Getz do a spectacular job of filling those shoes for this VA Rep production. As a Choreographer it isn’t always easy to reproduce other choreographers’ work for stage or film, but Getz held her own remarkably well. In the program it is noted that she created additional work for the show. Unfortunately there is no notation as to where and when it appears in the performances.
If I were to make an educated guess, I would say that there was additional choreography in “To Life” since it requires solos that play to each dancers’ strengths, as well as in “Tevye’s Dream” because the styling of this piece seemed incongruous with the rest of the show. For the latter number, in my notes, I wrote “Pippin on Matzah Ball Meth.” Please don’t take that as a negative comment, because it was a wildly entertaining number!
The Set And Lighting Design by Brian Prather and Robert Perry, respectively, looked to be a tremendous undertaking. This was a true blue jaw dropper. At one point my date for the evening leaned over with enormous eyes and whispered, “the FLOOR is… MOVING!” This musical exploits all the bells and whistles of fabulous theatre… A sliding stage, flying sets, flying ACTORS, real falling snow, and liberal use of multilevel opera boxes to expand the stage.
Emotionally riveting lighting cues change the mood throughout each scene with a whimsy that somehow reminds me of seeing “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time. The ever shifting tones in the background tend to subtlety enhance the actors’ work.
Overall I believe this entire cast to be of the highest caliber, and full of wondrous surprises. The three daughters played by Audra Honaker, Brittany D. Simmons, and Ally Dods treat us to an understated yet gloriously harmonious version of “Match Maker”. The Company’s collective emoting throughout “Sunrise, Sunset” left not a dry eye in the house. And the Male Ensemble showcases some of the finest, if not THE finest, dancing that I have seen in any local musical production in the past decade.
Fiddler on the Roof not a show that ends on a knee slapping hallelujah chorus. It has a very endearing somber quality that encapsulates the breadth of human emotion. I believe this is the perfect show to share with your own Mishpucha this season, so be a mensch and do something nice for your mother… Get tickets to this gem!
Xtina Fitch is the Founder, Director, and Choreographer of XF Company of Dance. She studied Engineering and Mathematics at N.C. State University. She has been teaching dance professionally and Bar-tending in RVA for more than a decade, and is thrilled to join the GayRVA team!
“We are honored to share these important works written by some of the world’s greatest leaders of contemporary theatre.”March 23, 2015
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