The status of Fiddler on the Roof as one of the most popular and enduring Broadway musicals of all time is unassailable—and deserved. It’s popped up frequently at community theaters around Sarasota over the years, but it’s been a while since the last visit; so the Players’ current production is a welcome one, especially judging by the packed house on opening night.
Those in attendance must have felt they got their money’s worth. There are a few not unusual quibbles about the show: As is often the case with community theater, there aren’t quite enough men of the right age and physical characteristics to go around, and on occasion the balance between the orchestra and the singers was uneven. But the pluses here outweigh the minuses.
Among the pluses are the leads. As humble milkman Tevye, blessed and burdened with those five daughters to marry off, Leonard A. Rubinstein throws himself into the part and delivers a zestful (if not always subtly nuanced) portrayal. He’s in command of the role and the stage from that classic opening number, Tradition, and he’s backed by some strong ensemble singers. (One other quibble while we’re at it: Tevye’s signature song, If I Were A Rich Man, was played and sung too fast on opening night. Slow it down to savor all the syllables).
While Tevye is the centerpiece of this Sheldon Harnick-Jerry Bock-Joseph Stein hit, Fiddler is famous for its wealth of instantly recognizable characters, including the matchmaker Yenta (convincingly played by Betty Silberman), the butcher Lazar Wolf (ditto for Cliff Cespedes), and the three oldest daughters, Tzeitel (Libby Fleming in a sprightly turn), Hodel (Georgie Landy, also spirited) and Chava (Erin Weinberger, touching in her Act II dance). Believable characterizations are also provided by Rafael Petlock as rebellious student Perchik, Steve Jaquith as mouse-turned-man Motel, and Sandra Musicante as Grandma Tzeitel and Loryn Haber as Fruma-Sarah in the memorable dream sequence of the first act. Nancy Apatow as Golde is a good match for Rubinstein’s Tevye, and she delivers her songs well; she could use a little less gesturing with her hands at emotional moments.
Production values here are strong. There’s a set by Michael Newton-Brown that summons up that doomed village of Anatevka well and converts easily from scene to scene; costumes by Kaylene McCaw likewise clothe all those villagers appropriately for their stations in life. And the direction by Carole Kleinberg (aided by choreographer Donna Culbreth, who flexibly adapted the show’s original movements to suit this cast) is accomplished and feeling. I would only say that sometimes the pacing (even for a show that admittedly clocks in around three hours) is too rapid; perhaps that will change later in the run.
Fiddler on the Roof continues through April 3; call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.