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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review Review
Fiddler on the Roof
By Elyse Sommer
To paraphrase the last production (My Fair Lady) in the Mac-Haydn's season of super musical hits, I could have sung all night! More than thirty years after the show's 3,242 performance Broadway run, Sheldon Harnick's touching lyrics and Jerry Bock's unforgettable score are as fresh as ever. And so is Joseph Stein's adaptation of Sholem Aleichem's stories about the milkman whose daughters, by marrying men of their own choosing, symbolize the changes threatening the 1907 traditions dominating life in the village of Anatevka.
What's lost in the way of the surprise and wonder of seeing a brand-new show (will we ever see the likes of Fiddler or any of the productions reprised in this cozy theater in the round again?), has gained in the pleasure of having a reunion with a beloved old friend. "Tradition", "Matchmaker", "If I Were a Rich Man", "Sunrise, Sunset" -- need I go on? Aren't the tunes already replaying themselves for you?
As with any revival, especially in a country theater, older audiences will undoubtedly recall other Teyves (Zero Mostel, Hershel Bernardi and the on-screen Teyve, Chaim Topol). Not to mention Bea Arthur, the original matchmaker and Jerome Robbins' choreography. But Mischa Kischkum settles comfortably and vigorously into the role of the peasant-patriarch who is torn between tradition and his daughters' happiness. His conversations with God are at once funny and stirring as is his questioning of his own arranged marriage when he sings "Do You Love Me?" David J. Schaller who has played Teyve in past Mac-Haydn Fiddler productions this time around ably steps into the a role of the prosperous butcher, Lazar Wolf.
Shannon Polly and Debra Buonaccorsi, who have endeared themselves to audiences throughout this season are luminous and once again in fine voice. Polly is Tzeitel, the rich butcher's intended who opts for the poor tailor (Michael Ursua is also a standout in both the acting and singing department) oldest and first of the girls to by-pass the matchmaker. Buonaccorsi convincingly portrays Hodel, the sister who becomes caught up in the revolutionary fervor of the young visiting tutor Perchick (endearingly portrayed by Clay Smith though his singing is not on a par with his acting).
Teyve's wife Golde (Patti McClure) and Yente, the matchmaker (Marcia Kunkel) are underwhelming but the variations in performance are usual with this company. The major satisfactions come from the large ensemble numbers and the ingenious staging to suit the configuration of the theater..
Paul Gregory Nelson, last seen front and center in South Pacific and My Fair Lady proves himself an able director. I particularly liked his staging of the famous dream scene conjured up by Teyve so that Golde will accept the husband Tzeitel wants instead of the one she wants for her. The plastic masks worn by the ensemble as the giant dream figure of Grandma Tzeitel looms over Teyve and Golde's bed, add a dramatic and highly effective touch.
The reporter who wrote the recent New York Times article about the "graying of Berkshire audiences" could have found plenty of grey heads at the Mac-Haydn. But he would have also found plenty of kids ranging from six to sixteen. A fourteen-year-old sitting next to me had seen every show this season and last. A little boy of seven sitting across the stage (I checked out his age during the intermission), sat riveted with open mouthed wonder throughout the almost 3-hour show -- a testament to the show's enduring appeal to all who are young and young in heart.
West Side Story
My Fair Lady