Fiddler on the Roof Plucks at the Heartstrings
With solid music direction by Mark and Nancy Press, effective evocation of the original Jerome Robbins choreography by Kerry Christianson, an effective minimalist scenic design by Steven Fogell, and generally evocative costumes by Jon Allbritton, the tale of Russian Jewish dairyman Tevye facing the peeling away of beloved traditions as reflected in the romantic choices of his three eldest daughters is told straightforwardly and with a heart on its sleeve.
Veteran Seattle song and dance man Larry Albert, recently relegated to smallish roles such as Grandpa in Meet Me in St. Louis and Cap'n Andy in Show Boat, makes a welcome return to carrying a pivotal role here. Albert's humor is of a gentler, quieter sort than the likes of the bigger than life Zero Mostel in the Broadway original or the earthiness of Topol in the film, but his interpretation of Tevye is no less valid. He shines most brightly in the relationships Tevye has with his second and third daughters, Daina Goldberg as a twinkly eyed, fiery hearted Hodel (soaring in her solo "Far from the Home I Love") and Walker Caplan, who tenderly portrays Tevye's beloved Chava, who marries outside the faith to a Christian. The "Chavaleh" song and dance sequence is the emotional zenith of the production.
Albert and Shannon Kipp, as Tevye's stern but loving wife Golde, mine the character comedy of their duet "Do You Love Me?" though Kipp is sometimes a bit underpowered in other moments of the show. Lindsay Powers as eldest daughter Tzeitel shares a high-energy "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" with stage siblings Goldberg and Caplan, while Nicholas Tarabini is spritely as her ultimate husband Motel, the poor tailor, handling his "Miracle of Miracles" deftly. William Hamer is suitably cantankerous as Tzeitel's rejected suitor Lazar Wolf the butcher, while Teri Lee Thomas is a vibrant, boisterous Yente the matchmaker, and this must be the only production of Fiddler I have seen in which the Yente-led "I Just Heard (The Gossip Song)", the score's weakest component, as it happens, was not deleted.
Though most of the big numbers such as "Tradition" and especially "Tevye's Dream" and "The Bottle Dance" work well, there is little dramatic heat to the act one closing in which Motel and Tzeitel's wedding is ruined by rampaging Russian soldiers, largely because the show is played with a smallish cast, and all props are mimed, so the toll taken by the Pogrom (demonstration) is underpowered.
Fiddler on the Roof clearly has held up well in the 50 years since its Broadway debut. May the quality of this production rekindle the tradition of solid productions for Seattle Musical Theatre!
Fiddler on the Roof runs through November 23, 2014, at 7120 62nd Ave NE, Seattle. For tickets, call (800) 838-3000 or visit seattlemusicaltheatre.org/.