Fiddler Raises Roof At Westchester Broadway Theatre!

Published: Monday, October 22, 2012 7:00 am By: Evelyn J. Mocbeichel Source: The Examiner

Now featuring its 177th production, Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT) has another spectacular hit on its hands.

“Fiddler on the Roof,” considered to be the quintessential musical of our time, was composed by Jerry Bock and featured lyricist Sheldon Harnick teaming up with librettist Joseph Stein to create this timeless classic, magically woven with universal themes, music, dance, poignancy and laughter.

Fiddler is based on Tevye and his daughters and other tales by Sholem Aleichem that he wrote in Yiddish and published in 1894. Set in 1905, the musical takes place in Anatevka, a small Jewish village in Russia. The story revolves around the dairyman, Tevye, and his attempts to preserve his family’s traditions in the face of a changing world.

The score includes such favorite songs as “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Tradition” and “Sunrise, Sunset.” The original Broadway production opened on Sept. 22, 1964, and ran for a record-setting 3,242 performances. ‘Fiddler’ held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. It remains Broadway’s 15th longest-running show in history.

In this WBT production, Tevye the dairyman is vividly brought to life by the astounding Bill Nolte, who commands the stage. From the first step out, he owns the play, with his booming voice and soulful and playful facial expressions. His delivery is impeccable. In fact, one patron whispered to his companion, “he is a clone of Zero Mostel,” the original lead on Broadway.

It is also remarkable how well each part was cast and the strength of the ensemble cast. Tevye’s wife, Golde, is played by Emily Zacharias. The daughters are Rachel Prather (Tzeitel), Sarah Rolleston (Hodel), Dana Glaus (Chava), and local children, Gianna Florio and Julia Gold who will alternate as Bielke, and Samantha Robins and Shannon Stout who will alternate as Shprintze. Terry Palasz is the meddling matchmaker, Yente. The girls’ suitors are Andrew Boza, as Motel the tailor; Eric Johnson as the butcher, Lazar Wolfe; Joe Longthorne as the student revolutionary, Perchik; and Chris Giordano as Fyedka, the Russian Cossack.
There were more than 25 actors completing the many roles required to depict a small village and the mingling of the Jewish settlers and Russian soldiers. There was not a weak link in the cast with strong voices, dramatic acting appeal and vigorous dancing in the Russian and Jewish cultural scenes.

Speaking of scenery, WBT excels as the décor is silently moved around the darkened stage after each segment and the audience is transported to another part of the village. Most touching were the wedding scenes, the sacred Sabbath meal and the pulse-rising scene with ordered “disruption” of the peaceful village by Russian soldiers.

Direction and choreography are by Richard Stafford, with musical direction by Leo P. Carusone. They are to be commended for the fantastic results of this large cast in such an intimate setting. There was not a moment’s lull in this fast paced, engrossing classic.