Sunday, July 14, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Reagle’s Heartfelt FIDDLER By Beverly Creasey

Reagle Music Theatre has reached quite a milestone: This is their 45th year of presenting iconic American musicals. (This summer they’re venturing out of their comfort zone with Les Miz in August.) What Reagle can do that other theaters can’t is to stage a show like FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (playing through July 27th) with a cast of thousands. (Well, it seems like thousands.)

The stage is filled to bursting with the denizens of Anatevka, squabbling, dancing and celebrating their rich heritage. Reagle has called back their Tevya of 10 years ago to star as the stalwart father of three (plus two more in training) headstrong daughters. Scott Wahle is matched, edict for edict, by his no nonsense wife, affectionately played by Donna Sorbello. Director Kirby Ward plays up their relationship in Tevye's touching, now revealing query “Do You Love Me?" At the end of the song, we know.

FIDDLER was written in the turbulent ‘60s so it should come as no surprise that Joseph Stein’s book (and the lovely Boch/Harnick songs) reflect the zeitgeist: Tevye has a chasm of a gender gap to contend with…and his next-to-eldest daughter is in love with a student radical, to boot! What makes FIDDLER one of the great American musicals is its universality and its timelessness.

Tevye can “bend” his rules to accommodate two of his daughters but he cannot break with his religion when a third marries out of the Jewish faith. Wahle and company succeed in transmitting the immense, overwhelming sadness involved in the sacrifice. And we feel every bit of the villagers’ tragedy when the Tsar drives them out of their homeland.

What sets this FIDDLER apart, too, is Larry Blank’s updated orchestration (under Dan Rodriguez’ smart music direction and Jeffrey Leonard’s steady baton), as well as some charming performances, like Peter Mill’s spunky (who knew!) Motel the Tailor, Matt Phillips’ kindly Russian soldier, Nora Fox’s determined Tzeitel, Gillian Gordon’s plucky Hodel and Alexa Lebersfeld’s sweet Chava.

Reagle is fortunate to have Rishi Basu to make the butcher more of a mensch than he’s usually portrayed and R. Glen Michell to make the Russian constable more than a cipher. Andrew Winans’s gorgeous tenor enlivens the “To Life” singing (while Susan Chebookjian’s choreography ensures dazzling footwork). Shonna Cirone has a high old time as the towering ghost of Fruma-Sarah and Reagle’s remarkable chorus create a memorable “Dream.” Miracle of Miracles, indeed!