St. Mark’s Players production of Fiddler on the Roof is a must-see. Those in the theater industry (and even those who’ve been around for the past 40 years), have heard of this Tony Award-winning show (with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein), and St. Mark’s created a cast and crew that does it justice to this ultimate classic.
The musical takes place in early 1900’s Russia, during a time when tradition was paramount, but change was coming. Tevye, played wonderfully by community theater veteran Dave Moretti, is a poor Jewish immigrant who’s married with five daughters, and tries to maintain order and tradition in his household with his wife Golde, played by Helen Bard-Sobola. Their strong beliefs in faith guide them throughout the story. What they both soon realize, however, is that their older daughters want to break the status quo.
As the oldest daughter Tzeitel, played by Dana Robinson, realizes that she is promised by Tevye to marry the butcher in town Lazar Wolf (played by John Imahori), she reveals that she wouldn’t be happy in a marriage with someone she doesn’t know or love. She, in fact, made a pledge with the town tailor Motel, played winsome innocence by Justin Latus, which is a violation of “the rules” of the land. Tevye breaks tradition for the first time and allows Tzeitel and Motel to get married.
The second oldest daughter Hodel, played by Lexi Haddad, adds more fuel to fire of defiance, by letting Tevye know that she was in love with the town visitor Perchik, played with stirring conviction by Jonathan Ohmart. The difference with this relationship is that they plan on marrying with or without Tevye’s blessing, which definitely stirs up some tense moments. Nonetheless, Tevye again chooses love over tradition and gives his blessings to the happy couple.
The middle daughter Chava, played beautifully by Maggie Dalzell, makes a decision in her life that is difficult for Tevye to accept. She becomes fond of a Russian boy named Fyedka, played by Anthony Costulas, due to their mutual love of books. When Chava tries to get Tevye’s blessing on their relationship, he struggles with accepting marriage outside of the Jewish faith, and doesn’t accept it. She goes off and elopes with Fyedka, which obviously makes him extremely upset. Towards the end of the show, however, there’s a moment where Tevye relays a message to Chava through his daughter Tzeitel when they depart, and it’s another indication that the love for his daughter is still prevalent, even though his forbiddance of their marriage is well known.
The musical does involve different subplots, from Motel’s desire for a new sewing machine, to Perchik’s departure to Kiev for the revolution. It’s the connection with this family, however, that molds this musical together. They struggle to work and survive through the toughest of times; from being poor to dealing with Russian “demonstrations” and forced exits from their homeland of Anatevka. What you realize in the end, that it’s all about love, compassion, unity, and hope. This production personifies all of these emotions.
David Moretti played Tevye as if he was born for the role. He demonstrates the complexity of his role with sure passion and professionalism. He deals with the happiness of tradition, while coping with the transformation of his daughters. His conversations with God and ongoing advice from scripture are priceless. His highlight includes the ever jovial, popular song “If I Were a Rich Man.”
Haddad’s voice sparkles throughout the show, especially during the beautiful song “Far From the Home I Love.” Other highlights include Moretti and Bard-Sobola’s adorable performance of “Do You Love Me?” and the daughter’s charming routine of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”
Janice Zucker’s portrayal of Yente is unforgettable. Notable mentions should also be made to Edith Marshall as the ghost of Lazar Wolf’s late wife Fruma-Sarah, and Terry Nicholetti as Grandma Tzeitel in the number “The Dream.”
The ensemble is amazing! Beautiful harmonies blossomed in every group number, and hats off to Musical Director Amy Conley for the beautiful sounding orchestra.
Ivan Davila and Hayley North made this cast shine with their traditional Jewish and Russian choreography. Every dance number, from “Tradition” to “The Dream” impressed me immensely.
Congrats to the Lighting Designer Jerry M. Dale, Jr. The different lights shifting from Tevye talking to the audience and real-time were dramatic and spot on. They definitely set the tone for the scenes.
Ceci Albert and Lisa Brownsword took us back to early 1900’s Russia with costumes, and the minimalism of the set design by Hector Lorenzini made the performances the primary focuses of the show instead of elaborate pieces. It was a poor country with heart, and I felt like I was there.
Finally, Rick Hayes did an outstanding job directing these actors to tell the story of Tevye and his five daughters. The dynamic between characters, especially with Tevye and his daughters, are realistic and can make parents reminisce about their moments of “letting go” of their own children. There were moments where the sounds was inconsistent with actors’ microphones, but that shouldn’t deter you from seeing the beautiful show portrayed by a wonderful cast. I am confident the sound issues are resolved now.
This is their final weekend, so don’t miss out on this wonderful production of Fiddler on the Roof! You’ll be smiling from beginning to end.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.
Fiddler on the Roof plays at St. Mark’s Players performing at St. Marks Episcopal Church – 301 A Street SE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 546-9670 and leave a message, or purchase them online.