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Home | Maine State Music Theater Reviews | Fiddler On The Roof Is A Hit With Theatergoers

Fiddler On The Roof Is A Hit With Theatergoers

Fiddler On The Roof Is A Hit With Theatergoers

Review by Charles Crosby Photos by Ben McCann ©MSMT2016

Although the first time I saw FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) was in 1976 when Bernard Wurger played Tevye the iconic and beloved songs such as "Sunrise, Sunset", "If I Were a Rich Man", and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker", never get old. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is the perfect mix of humor and heart and left the opening night audience filled with laughter and joy.
The musical is based on the book by Joseph Stein, the music is written by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. It was last seen at MSMT in 1995 (also performed here in 1971, 1972, 1976, 1983 and 1991) and is currently in its fifth Broadway revival.
Set in the little village of Anatevka, the story centers on a poor dairyman named Tevye and his five daughters. With the help of a colorful and tight-knit Jewish community, Tevye played by Bill Nolte who is making his MSMT debut, tries to protect his daughters and instill in them the traditional values in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality, and religion - making this show a musical theatre staple.  
  Nolte more than fills the shoes of this time-honored role and his commanding stage presence and vocal strength make the show a powerful theatrical experience. His career has spanned from Broadway to all over America performing in The Secret Garden as Ben; Merman's Apprentice as David Merrick; Miracle on 34th Street as R.H Macy; Hello Dolly as Vandergelder to name a few and he has appeared on Broadway in La Cage Aux FollesThe ProducersJane EyreAmourA Christmas CarolKing David1776Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatMe and My Girl; and Cats
Opposite of Nolte, Susan Cella plays Tevye's strong-willed wife, Golde. Cella is returning to the MSMT stage having appeared in Mame, Thoroughly Modern Milly, The Full Monty, Hairspray, Mary Poppins, and Gypsy. Cella's dry humor and beautiful singing voice is perfect for this role and this gifted actress is totally enjoyable to watch.   
What would a season be without Charis Leos who is playing the role of Yente, the matchmaker. She most recently appeared in the full 2015 season as Georgie in The Full Monty, Eulalie Shinn in The Music Man, Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act, and Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein. Other MSMT highlights include Louise in Always...Patsy Cline, Mama Morton in Chicago, Jolene in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Paulette in Legally Blonde. I always enjoy Leos and when she comes on stage one never knows what she is going to do or say to make her role memorable. She really makes the show fun.  
Tevye and Golde's three oldest daughters (Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava) are played by Rachel Rhodes-Devey, Siri Howard and Lexi Rabadi. Opposite of the daughters, Aaron Galligan-Stierle plays Motel (a tailor), with Ben Michael and Paul Louis Lessard playing suitors Perchik (a student and revolutionary) and Fyedka (a Russian Soldier). The casting of these couples is very good and I expecially enjoyed vocal duets sung in Act I and Act II.  
Rounding out the cast are MSMT veterans and newcomers Bev Appleton as the Rabbi, Erick Devine as Lazar Wolf (the butcher who has eyes on Tzeitel) and  Michael J. Farina as Mordcha (the innkeeper). The fiddler was played by Ernest Sauceda who is making his MSMT debut and was incredible.  He was a semi-finalist in the Kingsville International Strings Competition and a featured young artist at the Cactus Pear Music Festival.  He has performed at the White House, Hollywood Bowl and the Kennedy Center. 
As I have come to expect, the dancing and choreography is always excellent at MSMT and Gary John LaRosa, who also directed this show here 11 years ago deserves kudos for his fine work. He is a master at his craft and since it is a large cast and a long show, it takes a talent like his to keep it moving so the audience does not get bored. I can see why he has directed more than 200 productions nationally. He has also appeared as an actor on Broadway and in national and international tours.  
The bottle dancers, Philip Colgan (the fishmonger), Giovanni DeGabriele (Yitzuk, the street sweeper/Sasha, A Russian soldier), Alex Drost (Hershel, the cobbler), and Kyle Laing (Schloime, the bagel seller) were excellent and other standouts were Raymond Marc Dumont (Nachum, a beggar) who I did not recognize in makeup and Maine actress Birdie Newman Katz who played Shandel (Motel's mother). 
 The cast includes: playing Tevye and Golde's two other daughters: Madeleine Vaillancourt (Sphrintze), Zoe Dinnerstein (Bielke), Matty Rickard (Mendel, the Rabbi's Son and also was excellent as the Assistant Choreographer and Dance Captain), Peter Simon Hilton (Avram, a bookseller), Berkley Jones (Grandma Tzeital/Rivka), Hayley Ostir (Fruma-Sarah, Lazar's first wife/Fredel), Mike Backes (The Constable), Katie Whittemore (Mirala), Rachel Grindle (Bluma), Emily Davis (Sima), Megan Flynn (Anya), Heather Morgan (Sarah), Justin DeParis (Yussel, the hat maker), Marty Lauter (the knifeseller/Boris, a Russion soldier), Connor Wince (Schmeril, the seltzer man/Yuri, a Russian soldier), Andy Dolci and Eli Maynard (Cheder Boys).
The MSMT Production Manager Charles S. Kading and Production Stage Manager, Mark Johnson, and their staff were excellent as usual in delivering a theatrical experience that rivals any Broadway show I have seen. In fact, I usually enjoy productions here at MSMT more since they are much more intimate and the audience really feels like a more integral part of the show.  
Musical Director Brian Cimmet and his Assistant, Patrick Fanning did a great job with the orchestra and the balance was perfect. 
This show is fun for the whole family so plan to see the third show of this great season. The show runs through, Saturday, August 6 and there has been an added matinee at 2 p.m. the day it closes. The show is selling well so get your tickets online today at www.msmt.org, over the phone by calling 207-725-8769, or in person by visiting the Box Office located at in the Pickard Theater at 1 Bath Road. MSMT's 2016 Season is sponsored by Highland Green and OceanView at Falmouth. Fiddler on the Roof show sponsors are Topsham Fair Mall, Midcoast Hospital, Bath Savings Institution, and Norton Insurance-Financial.

 

 


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