Victoria Strong as Golde and Thomas Fiscella as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof." Credit: Ed Krieger
Everything feels in its place in this revisit to the perennially popular 1964 Broadway musical. There aren't unexpected staging concepts, and lead player Thomas Fiscella, as the patriarch Tevye, looks and sounds amazingly like Topol, who starred in the 1971 film version. Yet this heartrending folk fable of familial bonds and cultural pride feels more powerful than ever here. Perhaps the show’s messages of tolerance and faith seem more resonant in an era of severe global strife, but let’s not shortchange the creative artists. This is a lovingly crafted production, glimmering with musical excellence, visual grace, zesty humor, and compelling drama.
The symbolic titular figure represents the cherished traditions that bind ethnic and cultural groups. The beauty of Joseph Stein's book and the score by composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick is the profound way they tell a warm family story set against a larger backdrop of sweeping social change. The Russian Revolution of the early 1900s takes its toll on a humble Russian village, as citizens are terrorized and then displaced by armies of the totalitarian czar. Meanwhile, the peasant milkman Tevye traumatically deals with the marital plans of his three eldest daughters, each plan going against the grain of beloved Jewish traditions.
Fiscella eloquently conveys the larger-than-life quality of everyman Tevye while projecting the strengths and weaknesses of a fallible being. A gifted actor-singer, Fiscella grabs hold of this classic role and owns it from the outset, mining all of the humor and heartbreak inherent in the character. Victoria Strong provides a formidable counterpart as Tevye's stern but loving wife, Golde, a tower of strength who gives way to overwhelming sadness in the climatic scenes. Stephen Reynolds provides splendid comic relief as the butcher Lazar Wolf. The actors playing the eldest daughters (Carly Nykanen, Michaelia Leigh, Deidre Haren) and those portraying their suitors (Richard Israel, Jason Webb, Kelby Thwaits) are likewise superb.
Director Jon Engsrtom skillfully re-creates Jerome Robbins' original choreography, highlighted by smashing ensemble numbers. Dennis Castellano's music direction is exemplary. The beautifully textured production design comes courtesy of Darrell J. Clark's lighting and Christa Armendariz's costumes.