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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Fiddler on the Roof
Returns to San Francisco

Also see Richard's review of A Flea in Her Ear


Theodore Bikel and company have returned to San Francisco for a two week run of the Bock and Harnick classic musical Fiddler on the Roof. The musical played at the Golden Gate Theater in February of 2001 to a a capacity audience in a production that was fresh and lively. Mr. Bikel showed he is one of the best Tevye's to appear on stage.

Fiddler won nine 1965 Tony Awards, the Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and ran 3,242 performances making it the longest running Broadway musical of its time. The epitome Tevye was Zero Mostel, and Theodore Bikel runs a very close second. I like him better then Topol whom I saw in London. Mr. Bikel is more natural in the role. This great actor has played the role over 1800 times through the years.

The current production is crisp and lively and Tevye is still bigger than anybody else in village of Anatevka. He talks to God, and his little mannerisms with his hands and face are perfect. Though he looks more like a grandpapa then a papa, Mr. Bikel still has a wonderful vibrant voice, especially when he sings "If I Were A Rich Man."

The cast looks like they live in Anatevka with their beards and peasant clothing. The choreography has a constant presence of Jewish folk patterns. There is a certain abandonment in the dances, which are full of exultation. The wedding dance is still one of the best choreographed scenes in Broadway musical history. The bottle dance continues to amaze me and the choreography in the "To Life" sequence is certainly one of the highlights with the remarkable "Russian" dancers.

The only problem I found is the sound system in the theater. I have said this before, but sometimes the sound becomes piercing and over-loud. In the "Dream Sequence" I could not understand a word that the Fruma-Sarah character sings. Her voice is so shrill that it is ear shattering.

There are some cast changes from the last San Francisco appearance of this company. Adrienne Doucette plays Yente and she is a little weak as the matchmaker. The three daughters of Tevye, Eileen Tepper, Sara Schmidt and Rachael Jones, are remarkable in their roles and they blend perfectly in "Matchmaker."

Maureen Stillman as Goldie is a properly hard edged-foil for her husband Tevye. She has a lovely voice, especially in the number, "Do You Love Me?"

The sets are spartan and there are no strobes, no fancy FX effects, no revolving set pieces, and the houses are misshapen cottages with gnarled trees that glide in and out of the landscape. The lighting is interesting, with shades of violet and bluish green and pale brown in the background. The orchestra is top drawer and add that certain zest to the musical. I think this is one of the best productions of this classic musical I have ever seen.

Fiddler on the Roof runs through Sunday, January 6th at the Orpheum Theater. Tickets are $34.50 - $77.50 and can be purchased at the Orpheum Theater Box Office at 1192 Market Street or ticketmaster at (415)512-7770 or www.Ticketmaster.com.

Best of Broadway's next attraction will be Copenhagen at the Curran opening on January 8th and Kiss Me Kate opening at the Orpheum on February 5th. Tickets are also on sale for The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas at the Golden Gate Theater which opens in February.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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