ER Tevye (Thomas
Fiscilla) wishes he was a rich man.
Anatevka, Russia in 1905 might as well be Akron, Ohio in 2008. Air-headed, elitist republicans (small “r”) are
running a corrupt government, but are
about to be replaced by populist democrats (small “d”). The economy sucks.
Basic goods are either unattainable or
are too expensive for the citizens to purchase. People are losing their humble
homes. Members of the community are
trying as best they can to help cheer up — and cheer on — their neighbors.
The story of “Fiddler on the Roof” is
based on an 1894 story written by
Sholem Alecham. The 1964 musical
that evolved features music by Jerry
Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harrick and
book by Joseph Stein. Remarkably,
these three names are missing from the
32-page Civic Light Opera of South Bay
Cities complimentary program. The
show runs through Dec. 21 at the
Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.
So, why a fiddler on the roof? He’s not
a real character in the story. But, as
Tevye – the story’s centerpiece – explains
in his opening monologue, “We are all
fiddlers on the roof” attempting to make
the best of things while trying hard not to
fall. The title comes from works by Marc
Chagall, a Jewish-Russian painter born in
1887 whose depictions of the times often
included a fiddler.
Chagall’s early work is honored
through the sets of the CLOSBC show.
His 1911 painting “Rain” is undoubtedly a model. Chagall’s later 20thcentury success was in surrealism, but if you
need drugs to enjoy his popular paintings at the museum, you needn’t worry
upon entering the Redondo theater.
His early works actually look reasonably like the subjects he’s painting.
Credit for the sets, however, must go to
the Fullerton Civic Light Opera, who
leased the construction to CLOSBC.
Fear not. There are many local contributors who deserve praise.
Musical Director Dennis
Castellano is high on the list.
Vocally, the score of "Fiddler”
requires solo, duet, trio, ensemble
performances, and everything in
between. The cast, thanks to
Castellano, sings with great precision, especially in the ensemble
pieces. It must be noted that the
CLOSBC cast numbers 34, so ensemble singing can be daunting.
Castellano has molded his crew
well. From the opening number,
“Tradition,” it quickly becomes
apparent that the large group on
stage is vocalizing with precise diction and near-perfect pitch.
Castellano, director of the Music
Theatre Program at UC Irvine and a
regular director at many California
playhouses, also leads the 17-piece
orchestra. As per usual at CLOSBC,
the accompaniment is spot on.
Cameron Patrick’s violin playing is
most laudable (kind of important
with the word “fiddler” in the
show’s title). Praise must also be given to sound
designer John Feinstein, who two
weeks ago won LA theater’s Ovation
the cheap seats). Everything that happened on stage was pleasantly audible.
With such a large cast, Feinstein must
have been dealing with more micro-
phones than there are bars in Hermosa
Beach. City Council need not worry:
everything was shut down by 11 p.m.
Jon Engstrom directed and choreographed the show. His credits are endless and include 11 CLOSBC productions, most recently “Annie Get Your
Gun.” The show was well-cast and the
big production numbers (including “To
Life,” “The Dream” and “Anatevka”)
were performed with much spirit.
Cossacks did authentic Russian dances
in “To Life,” and the full company
employed moves (with clever effects)
in “The Dream” that have never before
been attempted in “Fiddler.” If Tevye
from 1905 could have time-travelled to
Redondo Beach to witness this number Saturday night, he would have
scrambled back, quite confused, to the
DeLorean in the parking lot.
There were many solid singers in the
cast. Teyve’s wife Golde (Victoria
Strong) has a pleasing, controlled voice
when she duets with Tevye (Thomas
Fiscella) on “Sabbath Prayer” and “Do
You Love Me?” It would have been nice
if composer Jerry Bock would have
written a solo or two for the character,
especially as performed by Strong. “Far From the Home I Love,” sung
by daughter Hodel (Michaelia Leigh),
may be among the lesser-known
pieces in the show. Not for long if
Leigh has anything to say (sing) about
it. Her representation was tender and
tearful and most effective.
Fiscella looks, acts, and moves
about the stage like everyman’s image
of the slightly flawed milkman who is
the crux of the story. His bearded visage and his booming voice are exactly
what one would expect from a troubled milkman with five unmarried
daughters. Fiscella sometimes forgets
to concentrate on pitch during his
vocals, which are many. Still, like Zero
Mostel, who played the role on
Broadway and in the 1971 film, he
sells songs like “If I Were a Rich Man”
because it takes only the opening
monologue for him to suck the audience into his believable portrayal of
This show should be a hit. After
all, the songs need not be sold –
most everyone knows the majority
of the score. It’s a good evening of
family entertainment. I saw many
youngsters in the audience with
their parents. I also heard a dad or
two trying to explain the circumstances of 1905 Russia to the kids
between musical numbers. Good
luck! I’ve got three grown offspring
who would have a tough time defining the term “czar.”
“Fiddler on the Roof,” CLOSBC,
Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center,
1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo
Beach. Through Dec. 21; Tuesday-
Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.;
Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. Dec. 13 and
20. Sunday evening, 7 p.m., Dec. 21.
Tickets $45-$60. Call 310-372-4477 or