Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre opened its 2012 season Friday night with a delightful presentation of Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Roberta Gasbarre. There is much to like about this show, beginning with the show itself.
Fiddler on the Roof is the winner of nine Tony Awards, and the first show in Broadway history to surpass 3,000 performances. With a timeless story written by Joseph Stein, a touching and beautiful score by Jerry Bock, and some of the most memorable lyrics ever written (by Sheldon Harnick) for musical theatre, the show has been going strong for 48 years. Audiences worldwide relate to the story of Tevye, a man steeped in the traditions of his religion and upbringing, as he struggles to maneuver through a difficult but rewarding life – while protecting and guiding his five daughters in a time of rapidly evolving cultural change and the uncertainty of life in Tsarist Russia. While the cast as a whole is strong, three of its members deserve particular mention.
Ryan Burke is simply exceptional in the role of Tevye. He is a wonderful and commanding actor, who has proven repeatedly that he can carry a lead role and portray a character more than twice his own age in the most convincing way. He has a beautiful and resonant singing voice that is perfectly suited to this show. His solo work is stellar, but he is also a huge asset in both small and large ensemble numbers where he lends large-scale support to less experienced and secure singers. He clearly surpasses expectations and is a talent to watch.
Britt Duff is totally hilarious in the role of Yente, the matchmaker. Her facial expressions, her timing, and her ethnic mannerisms are spot on, and whether acting or reacting, her character and her energy is constant. The show is long, and it is frequently Britt who picks up the pace when it is most needed.
Alecia Alaimo is outstanding in the role of Chava, the third of Tevye’s daughters. She is a convincing actress, and she is a consistent stand-out in the musical and dance numbers. Her training is evident, mostly because it does not get in the way of her character or her performance. The devastation she shows when the father she adores cannot accept her marriage to a man who does not share her religion was so real that she brought audience members to tears.
Emma Jaster is to be congratulated for her great choreography and her notable work with the many challenging dance numbers involved in this show. The dancing is refreshingly honest and fun to watch. The silhouette set, designed by Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden, is very nice, and the lighting of that set, designed by Lynn Joslin, really adds a lot, as it draws the audience into a very believable world of Anatevka.
On an instrumental note, Noah Marks, a student at North Bethesda Middle School deserves high marks for his violin playing as the Fiddler. The violin is not an easy instrument to learn, and to play it in character and well, while strolling a stage and distanced from the pit orchestra accompanying the show, is not easy.
The pit orchestra, under the direction of its talented and nurturing music director N. Thomas Pedersen, who heads the musical theatre department at Catholic University, does a fine job. In particular, clarinetist Katie Kellert is exceptional and plays with gorgeous tone and phrasing throughout the show.
Summer theatre is about learning. There is more to come from this very talented group of young and emerging artists. Pacing will improve. Intonation and vocal harmonies will become more secure, and singers and instrumentalists will learn to to perform together as one. They are well on their way, and they, as well as the Montgomery College staff and directors who have been making this learning and performance opportunity possible for 35 years, should be very proud of a job well done..
Fiddler on the Roof is a show the whole family will enjoy. L’Chaim!
Fiddler on the Roof plays through July 1, 2012 at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre in the Theatre Arts Building – 51 Mannakee Street, in Rockville, Maryland. For reservations, call the Box Office at (240) 567-7676, or click here for more information.
Friday and Saturday Schedule:
• Buffet Opens at 6:30 p.m.
• Show Starts Approximately 8:15 p.m.
Sunday Matinee Schedule:
• Buffet Opens at 12:30 p.m.
• Show Starts Approximately 2:15 p.m