Following up on receiving four Ovation Awards (LA’s Tony Award), Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities is presenting a stirring and fresh production of the Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerome Robbins musical Fiddler on The Roof. The production is well directed by Jon Engstrom, who brings his customary attention to detail and knowledge of musical theater to bear on a beautiful rendition of this classic musical. In addition, he recreates Jerome Robbins' choreography with precision and skill.
The show is very well cast. Victoria Strong makes a stolid though youngish Golde. Many Goldes seem strident, but not Ms. Strong’s interpretation. Her Golde is obviously a loving mother and wife trying her best to hold the family together. I really felt her anguish over Chav’s betrayal by marrying a non-Jew. Motel is the talented Richard Israel, who brings his customary skill to his portrayal.
Deidre Haren and Kelby Thwaits play Chava and Fyedka. Ms. Haren’s scene with Tevye was one of the best in the show, while Mr. Thwaits is a handsome guy with a great singing voice. Hodel and Perchick are played by Michaelia Leigh and Jason Webb. Things really come alive when they are onstage. Lazar Wolff is excellent as performed by Stephen Reynolds, a big man with a big voice. I also enjoyed Truly Magyar as Grandma Tseitel and Jessica Gisin as Fruma-Sarah. Both of them sounded just like the original actors.
At the center of Fiddler on The Roof lies the character of Tevye, the comic dairyman who must carry the show in order for it to work. The original, of course, was the great stage clown Zero Mostel. The movie starred Israeli star Topol, who once again is going to tour America next spring. These are hard shoes to fill, but Thomas Fiscella does a good job, and it is his performance that makes this production seem so alive.
Any company that does Fiddler in a major metropolitan center must use the Jerome Robbins choreography, so a production can seem stale if the dances aren’t fully realized. The actor playing Tevye must also bring his own take to the leading character. Mr. Fiscella is strong when he needs to be and shows a wonderful sense of fun and warmth. What is even more surprising is that you might expect this actor to be playing one of the suitors instead, because he is handsome and has sex appeal. He brings those qualities to Tevye, along with all the appropriate gestures and attitudes, and gives a memorable performance. One member of the audience who has seen many Tevyes said Thomas Fiscella is the best she has seen since Topol.
Fiddler on The Roof plays until Dec. 21 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.