Fiddler on the Roof sparkles with brilliance, excellence
By RONALD ZAJAC
Updated 1 day ago
The production is at once poignant and humorous (often in an understated way) and at all times rich in visual and musical treasure.
Set in the shtetl of Anatevka in tsarist Russia in 1905, against a backdrop of increasing antisemitism, the play tells the story of Tevye, a father of five daughters, trying to maintain his family and Jewish traditions while customs change around him and the world grows more dangerous.
In a dress rehearsal for local high school students Wednesday morning, senior student Daniel Williston seemed comfortable and confident in the crucial role of Tevye. Williston's acting abilities are put to the test with Tevye, who spends most of the play either screaming in exasperation at the audacity of his children, misquoting the Holy Book, turning despair into humour or haranguing God for his misfortunes.
Indeed, at the heart of Tevye's character is a religious devotion so pure that he can raise a fist at the Creator and bicker with him. Capturing the essence of the story, Tevye memorably addresses the Almighty: "I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?" Williston handles this task with seeming ease, and further demonstrates his skill with the small inflections that subtly change the meaning of a song.
In the play's signature song "If I Were a Rich Man," for instance, Tevye fantasizes about his wife, Golde, "screaming at the servants, day and night." Williston delivers the line with just the right vocal emphasis and physical gestures to insert the unspoken meaning "screaming at the servants ... and not at me," a meaning that speaks volumes about their solid but very loud marriage.
Kelly Brazeau, one of two actresses cast in the role of Golde, is a strong counterpart for Williston, one capable of embracing the vocal challenge of the matriarchal role.
The SLC program demonstrated its power with full-cast harmonies in another production, Oklahoma!, a year ago, and shows the same combination of range and strength with such numbers as the rousing "Tradition" and the moving "Sunrise, Sunset," both numbers that are bound to stay with audience members after the final curtain.
And, like Tevye's vocal hints and telling gestures, the choreography in Fiddler tells the audience the story behind the story.
This cast has clearly spent a lot of time mastering the often difficult Jewish folk dances, which at once convey the earthy, unrefined celebratory spirit of the shtetl and its inhabitants' adherence to traditions now being challenged.
The storytelling power of the choreography is most apparent in "To Life." In it, Gentile Russian characters congratulate Tevye and Lazar on their good fortune and express their desire to live with the Jews in peace.
It is a wish, of course, that will not come true, a sad reality made apparent in the stark contrast between the precise, military style of the Russian dances compared to the more spontaneous and less-refined Jewish steps.
While the musical is infused with sadness, Fiddler on the Roof is ultimately a life-affirming story about hope and the possibility of change.
Fiddler on the Roof is directed by Michael Bianchin, with musical direction by Chris Coyea and choreography by Janet Venn- Jackson.
The production runs tonight, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $30, plus HST, for adults, and $28 plus HST for a group of 10 or more adults. The student rate is $23 plus HST, or $21 plus HST for groups of 10 students or more.
For more information, call the arts centre at 613-342-7122 or go online to www.brockvilleartscentre.com.