Regional Reviews: Boston
Yes, I've seen it at least a million times like everyone and their mother. Yes, I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of having to sit through it again. But was I extremely surprised by this production at North Shore Music Theatre? Yes!
This glorious new production of the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof opened on October 31 and continues through November 19. With a terrific cast and orchestra and wonderful design elements to boot, this Fiddler is a must-see. I admit that I was a bit skeptical about seeing this show in the round, but I was pleasantly surprised at the adept usage made of NSMT's difficult space. Director Greg Ganakas has done a skilled job of making sure the cast plays to all sections of the audience, often having actors switch places to make sure each side gets to see everyone's action.
The show's book and score are as relevant and moving as ever and this cast brings the masterpiece to full realization. The ensemble is stunning and is extremely strong vocally, bringing Bock and Harnick's score to a vibrant life. However, the principal players are a mixed bag.
David Coffee is very reminiscent of Zero Mostel in the perennial role of Tevye, the Dairyman. Coffee makes for a marvelous Tevye, his comic nuances especially strong. He also makes his songs seem fresh and easily makes the transition between drama and comedy, making us care greatly about the plights of this tired man.
Nancy Johnston is fine in her role as Tevye's wife, Golde. Although Johnston is appealing in the role, she offers nothing new in her interpretation and is a bit too young to be playing opposite Mr. Coffee.
The weak link in the cast is Joel Carlton as Perchik, a suitor to Tevye's daughter Hodel. Carlton overacts greatly and often sounds like he is trying to portray a superhero.
The one reason everyone should go see this production is to see the great work of Jacquelyn Piro and Todd Gross as Tzeitel and her beau Motel, the tailor. Piro and Gross give engaging performances and have excellent chemistry together on stage. You can see Tzeitel's pain as she watches Motel try to tell her father that he is in love with her. Mr. Gross gives a charming performance and quite possibly the best rendition of "Miracle of Miracles" I've ever heard. He takes a potentially corny song and makes it very believable and moving. A little side note: this was the first time I've ever cried when watching Tzeitel tell her father that she does not want to marry Lazar Wolf.
Another highlight of the production is Greg Ganakas' staging. Mr. Ganakas has a wonderful gift for creating beautiful tableaus and portraits on stage. Particularly memorable is the staging of "Sabbath Prayer," which had families huddled around a single candle scattered throughout the audience. The infamous dream sequence was wonderfully designed and extremely fun. Doused in green and blue lights, the dream was as hysterical as ever, and Fruma Sarah had glowing blue fingertips! The wedding scene is also very effective here. Not only do we witness the destruction of Tzeitel and Motel's wedding, but we also here the screams of distant village families as the Russians tear through Anatevka.
The only problem I had with NSMT's production was the sound. The affable orchestra sounds extremely tinny pumped through the theatre's sound system. I often felt as though I was listening to the cast album instead of a live orchestra playing the lush score.
So if you've seen Fiddler a thousand times, go anyway! I felt like I was seeing a brand new musical and hopefully you will too. It is a treat!
Fiddler on the Roof will run October 31-November 19, Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets range from $18-$56. Call the NSMT Box Office at (978)-232-7200 or purchase tickets online at www.nsmt.org
Fiddler on the Roof is sponsored by the Delta Shuttle.-- Ryan DeFoe