A FINE FIDDLER ON THE ROOF AT RICHTER (2007 Season)
By Chesley Plemmons
News-Times Theater Critic
all of the productions at Musicals at Richter, Danbury's outdoor
theater, are as well staged as the season opener, "Fiddler on the Roof,"
you need look no further for summer entertainment for the whole family.
Director Donald E. Birely has assembled an enormous cast and put them
through their paces like a master. He earns much of the standing
ovation the show receives at the end.
Winner of the 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical, "Fiddler" has always
defied the logic that spawns musicals: Who would want to see a show
about Tevye, a lowly Jewish milkman in pre-Revolutionary Russia who
talks to God like a next door neighbor?
Well, as it turns out, the human elements in Tevye's story touch the
hearts of everyone and provide insight into Jewish family life with
song, laughter and a touch of genuine sentiment. The solid book by
Joseph Stein has held up well because Tevye's story is a timeless one of
parents and children and the humor springs from real life experience.
Couples will readily identify with the loving sparring between Tevye and
his wife; young people will identify with the longing of their
The score with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick is a
joy, Jewish without sounding ethnic and exuberant throughout. What show
wouldn't like to include in its score: "Sunrise,
Sunset,""Tradition,""If I Were a Rich Man" and "Matchmaker"?
It's 1905 in Anatevka, where Tevye and his family live, a little
village which could be the Grovers Corners of "Our Town" transported to
Tevye has problems about which he constantly complains to God. His
wife Golde is constantly on his case, his horse is lame and he has five
daughters each in need of a husband. In addition, the Russian revolution
is heating up in the distance.
This show, despite its appealing story and warm characters, does not
work without an actor that fits the role of Tevye like a glove. There
have been a couple of recent revivals with unusual casting "" Alfred
Molina and Harvey Fierstein "" but they worked mostly because the show
was beautifully staged and hadn't been seen on Broadway in quite a
Richter has a winner in Stephen DiRocco. The actor has a strong sure
voice, a booming delivery and a good sense of comedy. In addition, he
looks like a Tevye should look "" OK, he's probably padded!
Barbara Kessler is an excellent no-nonsense Golde and Cat Heidel
chews the scenery effectively and amusingly as Yente, the village
matchmaker. Among the townspeople Eric Greenfeld as Lazar Wolf, the
butcher and Mike Lozier as the Rabbi offer amusing portrayals.
Center to the story are the five daughters and the budding romances
of the three eldest, Tzeitel (Cesira Farrell), Hodel (Allegra DeVita)
and Chava (Caitlin Keeler). None of their beloveds are in keeping with
the Jewish traditions of the village.
Tzietel is in love with the ambitious but poor tailor Motel (Matt
Austin), Hodel falls for the radical teacher Perchik (Robert Sniffin)
and Chava breaks all the rules with her love for the Russian solder,
Fyedka (Matthew Farina).
All six young performers create strikingly individual personalities
and there isn't a weak voice among them. Austin shines in the spirited
"Miracle of Miracles" and Sniffin and DeVita handle the show's lone love
ballad, "Now I Have Everything" with feeling, as they say.
Lone love song that is, unless you include the query Tevye poses to
Golde: "Do You Love Me?" Every couple with 25 years of married life or
more will understand in a flash the unanswerable humor of that question.
It's a very large cast and there were no incidents of people tripping
over one another. In fact the actors looked well rehearsed and
Birely and Christopher Gladysz get an A+ for their choreography but
only a C for their scenery. Most of the buildings in the set look
unfinished and plain. One nice, ironic touch "" a panorama at the rear
of the stage initially looks like something left over from "Oklahoma!"
As the sun began to set, however, the colors took on the look of a
painting by Marc Chagall "" a Russian Jew whose work adorns the walls of
the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Nice touch, guys.
musical accompaniment, once a weak spot at Richter, is now up to speed.
Under the baton of musical director Stephanie Gaumer-Klein, the six
piece orchestra delivered a rich, tempo-right backup for the singers.
You can't go wrong with this "Fiddler," and the added charm of
picnicking on the grounds before the show and watching the stars sparkle
above make this a perfect summer excursion for the family.
A final word of praise for expert fiddler Julien Heller perched on high. His music was sweet and sad, just as you might expect.
"Fiddler on the Roof" plays through July 7 at Musicals at
Richter, Richter Arts Center, 100 Aunt Hack Road, next to the Richter
Golf Course, Danbury. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays at 8:30
p.m. The grounds of the art center open at 7:15 for picnicking.
Tickets are $20; $15 for seniors and $12 for students and children.
Group rates are available. Lawn chairs may be rented with advance
reservations and there is a concession stand on site.
For more information, directions or reservations, call (203) 748-6873 or visit the Web site at www.musicalsatrichter.org.
Copyright 2007 Danbury News-Times
BarbaraKessler as Golde and Stephen DiRocco as Tevye
Caitlin Keeler as Chava, Cesira Farrell as Tzeitel and Allegra DeVita as Hodel
Barbara Kessler as Golde with Cat Heidel as Yente
Matt Farina as Fyedka, Caitlin Keeler as Chava, Cesira Farrell as Tzeitel,
Matt Austin as Motel, Allegra DeVita as Hodel and Rob Sniffin as Perchik
"Fiddler" Company (minus a few folks!)
to live a normal life filled with Jewish traditions in early twentieth
century Russia, Tevye, a dairyman, is searching for appropriate husbands
for his three eldest daughters - Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava. In a break
of tradition, his daughters refuse to accept the wishes of the
matchmaker, Yente, and their father. Instead, they marry men that they
love. Meanwhile, Russians are instigating terrible pogroms against the
Jewish people in Russia. In the end, the Jews of Anatevka are forced to
leave their homes and Tevye is determined to start a better life in a
on the Roof is regarded as one of the most famous stage and film
musicals. It opened on Broadway on September 22, 1964 with music by
Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and libretto by Joseph Stein.
Zero Mostel played the protagonist, Tevye the Milkman, Maria Karnilova
his wife Golde, Beatrice Arthur as Yente the Matchmaker, and Bert Convy
as Perchik the student revolutionary.
was played by Chaim Topol in later productions; he also starred in the
successful 1971 film adaptation by Norman Jewison. Other actors that
have played Tevye on stage have included Alfie Bass, Herschel Bernardi,
and Theodore Bikel.
The musical was revived on Broadway for the fourth time in 2004, with
Alfred Molina (and later Harvey Fierstein) as Tevye and later Rosie
O'Donnell as Golde. The revival closed on January 8, 2006.
The story is based on Tevye and his Daughters, or Tevye the Milkman by
the Russian Jewish author Sholom Aleichem, originally published in 1949.
The play is set in the tiny Jewish shtetl (town) of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia in 1905.
The story centers on Tevye's attempts to maintain his family and
religious traditions while adapting to new pressures. These manifest
themselves chiefly in the strong-willed actions of Tevye's eldest three
daughters, who each select her own husband, contrary to tradition. In
both the film and stage production, Tevye has five daughters.
The play's name stems from a painting by Marc Chagall, one of many
surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life. The
Fiddler is a metaphor of survival through tradition and joyfulness. In
the 1971 film adaptation, the violin music was played by Isaac Stern.
The action opens with a lone fiddler standing on a roof playing a tune,
as Tevye tells the audience about the customs of his people and about
how they have lived all their lives in Anatevka. He equates life in
Anatevka with being a "fiddler on a roof": trying to scratch out a
simple, pleasant tune without breaking his neck. "How do we keep our
balance?" he asks. "That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!"
At Tevye's home, everyone is busy preparing for the Sabbath meal. Golde,
the matriarch, is ordering the five daughters about, and Tzeitel, the
eldest daughter, spots Yente, the matchmaker, on her way to their house.
Yente tells Golde that Lazar Wolf, the town's butcher and a wealthy
man, older than Tevye, wants to marry Tzeitel, but Tevye must first meet
Lazar and arrange the deal. Yente leaves, asking Golde to tell her how
The two middle daughters Hodel and Chava, talk about their excitedness
over an arranged marriage, but Tzeitel warns them not be so hasty
because they are so poor, that they will probably have to take whatever
husband Yente brings. (Matchmaker, Matchmaker)
Tevye is late arriving home because his horse has broken his foot (a
running joke of the play, as the horse never actually appears, although
the play takes place over the course of something like a year). He prays
to God and asks him why he could not have been a rich man. He finds no
shame in being poor, but complains that there's no great honour in it
either. He imagines his life as a rich man. (If I Were a Rich Man
The men of the village confront Tevye, as he is late delivering their
milk and cheese. Avram, the bookseller, has news from the outside world
and tells them of pogroms and expulsions. A student from Kiev, Perchik,
overhears them and scolds them for doing nothing more than talk.
Significantly, Perchik, alone among the men, is clean-shaven; he wears
more modern clothing and no tallit katan, the traditional four-cornered
garment with tzitzit. Most of the townspeople dismiss Perchik as a
woolly-headed radical, but Tevye takes a liking to him and invites him
home, offering him room and board in exchange for tutoring the five
daughters. The two arrive home to meet the family. Motel Kamzoil, a
tailor, who has been friends with Tzeitel since childhood, arrives.
Golde tells Tevye to meet Lazar after the Sabbath, she does not tell him
what it is about because she knows Tevye does not like Lazar. Tzeitel
tells Motel that he must talk to Tevye that night and ask for her hand
in marriage immediately. This is against tradition, as a matchmaker
normally arranges marriages - and Motel is just a poor tailor. Motel
fails to gather the courage to ask, and he runs out of time as everyone
settles in for the beginning of the Sabbath meal. (Sabbath Prayer)
After Sabbath, Tevye goes to Lazar's house. Tevye, after clearing up the
initial misunderstanding about the milk cow, eventually agrees to let
Lazar marry Tzeitel. Teyve and Lazar then go off together to Mordcha's
inn, where everyone is drinking, to celebrate. All of the patrons of the
inn, including a group of well-meaning Russians, join in the
festivities and everyone drinks merrily. (To Life)
Outside of the inn, a drunken Tevye meets the Russian Constable, who has
been assigned to watch over the Jews in the town. He explains to Tevye
that there is going to be a "demonstration" in the coming weeks
(although supposedly not an actual pogrom). Tevye is saddened by this,
but the Constable says he is powerless to stop it, and that he expects
that no one will actually be hurt. After the Constable left, Tevye meets
the fiddler and dances with him home.
The next morning, a hungover Tevye delivers the news to Tzeitel and the
family that she will be marrying Lazar Wolf. Golde is overjoyed, but
Tzeitel is horrified and pleads with Tevye not to make her marry Lazar
because she would be unhappy. Tevye relents and allows Motel, who
eventually stands up to Tevye, to marry Tzeitel.(Tevye's Monologue)
Motel celebrates with Tzeitel. (Miracle of Miracles)
At first unsure how to break the news to his wife Golde, Tevye concocts a
dream in which Golde's departed Grandmother Tzeitel returns from the
grave to bless the marriage of Tzeitel and Motel, not Lazar. In the same
dream, Lazar's late wife, Fruma Sarah, warns of severe retribution
should Tzeitel marry her husband-in-life Lazar. Golde is so frightened
that she agrees that Tzeitel will marry Motel. (Tevye's Dream)
The wedding is set and everyone arrives to celebrate. Tevye and Golde
marvel at how the two children have grown. Hodel and Perchik ponder if
they will ever be wed. (Sunrise, Sunset)
At the reception, there is much dancing and celebration. (The Bottle
Dance) Lazar causes a scene, angry that it should have been his wedding.
Perchik finally ends the fighting by breaking yet another tradition: he
crosses the barrier between the women and the men and dances with a
girl, Hodel. To save face, Tevye grabs Golde to dance with him and Motel
grabs Tzeitel. Soon, everyone, including the Rabbi, is dancing. The
dance is abruptly stopped by the Constable who says that tonight is the
night for the demonstration. He apologizes but sends in soldiers who
destroy almost everything at the wedding and wound Perchik, who attempts
to fight back. After they leave, Tevye wearily tells everyone to clean
As Act II opens, Tevye prays to God about the last act. He calls it
"quite the dowry." He asks if God has the time, to give Motel his new
sewing machine to help business go faster.
Perchik tells Hodel he must return to Kiev to help the revolution. He
explains that the pogrom at the wedding was not an isolated incident and
that it will happen again. Perchik, and others like him, are gathering
to stand against the Tzar of Russia. Hodel does not like it that Perchik
is simply leaving and she fails to understand his reasons. He asks if
they can be engaged as he loves her and wants her to know that even
though they are apart, he will always be hers. She agrees. (Now I Have
Tevye is not so agreeable to this news. At first, he will not allow
Perchik to be engaged to Hodel, because the first thing he's doing is
abandoning her. When he forbids them, they inform he they are not asking
for his permission, only his blessing. This shocks him, but he finally
relents. (Tevye's Rebuttal)
Tevye explains these events to Golde who is not happy with the news
either. He says they are powerless to stop it though, this breaking of
tradition. This love, he says, it's a new style. Tevye then wonders if
Golde loves him. Golde is at first hesitant to answer as she thinks it
is irrelevant at this time with all of her daughters getting married off
without her consent and because it's kind of pointless after 25 years
of marriage anyway. Tevye explains that even though theirs was an
arranged marriage, his parents said they would soon learn to love each
other anyway.(Do You Love Me?) At the end of the song, they realize
their love for each other.
News spreads quickly in Anatevka. (The Rumour) Hodel receives word that
Perchik has been arrested and decides she must go to be with him. Tevye
is saddened by this but Hodel explains that her home is no longer with
him but she will always love her family. But she now has love for
Perchik as well. (Far from the Home I Love)
Chava has fallen for a young Russian man named Fyedka. She finally
gathers the courage to ask Tevye to allow the marriage, but this is the
line Tevye will not cross. He will not allow Chava to marry outside of
the faith. Chava disobeys and elopes with Fyedka, before running off.
Tevye wonders where he went wrong. (Chavaleh)
Even with all the good news in town, like the arrival of Tzeitel and
Motel's new sewing machine and child, the Constable tells everyone they
have three days to sell everything and leave the town. After they
recover from the shock, they sing about how miserable their town was,
but about how it is still their home.(Anatevka)
And so the Jews of Anatevka leave. Lazar Wolf is going to Chicago to
live with his brother-in-law. Tzeitel and Motel are going to Warsaw
until they can come to America to live with Tevye and his family, who
are all going to live with Uncle Avram in New York. Hodel is still in
Siberia with Perchik. Yente is going to the Promised Land (Israel, then
part of the Ottoman Empire) to matchmake there. Chava returns with
Fyedka to try and get Tevye to relent. Though he does not speak directly
to her, he tells Tzeitel, as Chava is leaving, that he hopes God will
be with them. Everyone says their good-byes and the Fiddler is invited
along with Tevye (the original theatrical ending and the movie's ending)
or is left behind in Anatevka (the new revival's ending).
Tradition - Tevye and the Company
Matchmaker, Matchmaker - Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava with Shprintze and Bielke
If I Were a Rich Man - Tevye
Sabbath Prayer - Tevye, Golde, and the Company
To Life - Tevye, Lazar Wolf, and the Company
Tevye's Monolgue - Tevye
Miracle of Miracles - Motel
Tevye's Dream - Tevye, Golde, Grandma Tzeitel, Fruma Sarah, and the Company
Sunrise, Sunset - Tevye, Golde, Perchik, Hodel, and the Company
The Bottle Dance
Now I Have Everything - Perchik and Hodel
Tevye's Rebuttal - Tevye
Do You Love Me? - Tevye and Golde
The Rumor - Yente and the Company
Far From the Home I Love - Hodel
Yente - Yente and the Women
Little Chaveleh - Tevye
Anatevka - The Company
Tevye — Stephen DiRocco
Golde — Barbara Kessler
Yente — Cat Heidel
Tzeitel —Cesira Farrell
Hodel —Allegra DeVita
Chava —Caitlin Keeler
Bielke — Molly Gaumer Klein, Kendall Post
Shprintze—Alternating in role: Megan Preis, Margo Virzera
Lazar Wolf — Eric Greenfeld
Motel — Matt Austin
Perchik — Rob Sniffin
Fyedka — Matt Farina
Fruma-Sarah - Mary Shuldman
Grandma Tzeitel - Dolly Conner
Rabbi - Mike Lozier
Avram — John McMahon
Constable — William Lamoureux
Nachum - Matt Sumski
Sasha - Ben Simpson
Mendel - Bryan Prywes
The Fiddler - Julien Heller