Having seen Zero Mostel and Topol, not to mention several others, in the classic Fiddler on The Roof, I didn’t know what to expect when I went to the Glendale Centre Theatre to see its production, the first of its 65th year as the longest continually operating theatre in the United States. I had only seen Beau Jeste there before this so the idea of doing a full-scale musical in that smallish stage was an unknown quantity.
Well, there it was: 24 actors, a decorated set mainly defined by set pieces, colorful but appropriate costumes (Angela Wood), some stirring performance,s and well executed dances thanks to Orlando Alexander. Martin Lang, the director, certainly had his hands full directing traffic and arranging the technical aspects of the piece but he also managed to get some pretty good acting from his cast.
Fiddler on the Roof is a perfect musical. It features a great book by Jerry Stein, with an oh-so-hummable score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Many of the songs have become great standards in the musical theatre: "If I Were A Rich Man," "Sunrise, Sunset," "Matchmaker," "To Life," "Far from the Home I Love," etc. The story, based on the beloved tales of Sholom Aleichem, is set in a small Ukrainian village in the early 1900s. At its heart it is the story of Tevye, a milkman, and his family, a wife and five daughters. Many have called it a “Jewish” musical. It is about this Jewish village of Anatevka, but at its center are a family and their story. The audience in Glendale is not a Jewish audience and a good third of them were young kids being exposed to it for the first time. They ate it up. Fiddler on the Roof is a universal story with universal themes rooted in history.
The cast is led by the very capable Richard Malmos as Tevye. Lisa Dyson does a good job as his wife Golde. I also liked Nicole Ligerman as Tzeitel, Heather Dudenbostel as Hodel, and Daron O’Donnell as Chava. They handled their respected songs and scene work with professional aplomb. Fiddler on the Roof will play at Glendale Centre Theatre until March 24.