Schenectady Light Opera captures tradition of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

Schenectady Light Opera Company delivers a worthy version of the musical gem "Fiddler on the Roof."

Director Laura Andruski got the job done.

Perhaps there were moments during rehearsals, while she was figuring out what to do with more than 40 performers, a musical director, a choreographer and a large tech team, she herself might have felt like a fiddler on the roof and thrown up her hands to the spiritual rafters with a “Why me?”

But at the end, she got the job done. SLOC’s mounting of the Tony Award-winning “Fiddler on the Roof” does justice to all of the features that make this show a favorite. As befitting a light opera company, the singers shine. The dramatic interactions in the big chorus numbers, including “Tradition,” “To Life” and “The Bottle Dance,” credibly evoke life in the small Russian village of Anatevka. And the drama of “Sabbath Prayer,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Anatevka” is captured in the stand-still snapshots the large cast creates, each performer looking inward while gazing out.

The story: poor milkman Tevye (Joe Phillips) and his wife, Golde (Amy Birchler), are parents of five daughters. Devout Jews all, they live under Czarist rule, but, for the most part, neither side bothers the other.

Tevye talks to God on a regular basis. While maintaining respect, he isn’t afraid to voice frustrations over his lot in life. When his oldest daughter, Tzeitel (Amanda Cotrupi), rejects Tevye’s choice for a husband, Lazar Wolf (the excellent Rick Reed), preferring instead the poor tailor, Motel (David DiPaola), Tevye is angry. What about tradition? After all, he and Golde were matched 25 years before, and they’ve made a go of it.

He acquiesces. Then his next two daughters, Hodel (Meighan Esmond, who scores on “Far from the Home I Love”) and Chava (Virginia Reed) also ask to marry men not chosen by matchmaker Yente (Debbie May). The play chronicles the struggles of Tevye and Golde to be loving parents in a new age, as well as upholders of the faith.

Kudos to DiPaola for his energetic “Miracle of Miracles,” Judi Merriam and Sherri Strichman in “The Dream” and the boys in “The Bottle Dance.”

Music director/pianist Elizabeth Sears, in the balcony stage right, manages to lead/follow the performers she has trained so well. Nice Klezmer by Rick Hambright. Debbie Lummis’s costumes are period-perfect. And choreographer Sara Fittizi has made enthusiastic dancers of some who normally might not be so inclined.

The space is still a work in progress. For example, the large sheet masking the chancel of the old church is distracting: white, wrinkled, and dramatically purposeless. The curtains stage right and stage left make for awkward entrances and exits; at the very least, those who open them for the performers should wear black gloves. Also, the concession area is congested.

Finally, Phillips and Birchler. The success of the show doesn’t rest exclusively on Tevye, but it helps to have someone who knows what he’s doing. Phillips does. He has the requisite vocal qualities and the necessary bluster. But he and Birchler are best in the domestic moments. “The Dream” is hysterical because of Phillips’ eye-rolling and Birchler’s panicked looks. “Do You Love Me?” is simple, never cloying: testimony to the couple’s practical life together. Watch Birchler in “The Bottle Dance” scene as she reveals Golde’s newfound joy in dancing. And Phillips, aided by his daughters’ brief ballet, movingly captures a father’s heartbreak in “Chavala.”

According to the program, this is Laura Andruski’s last SLOC show, and a solid effort it is. Mazel tov!

“Fiddler on the Roof”

WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady

WHEN: Through March 25

HOW MUCH: $28 to $18

MORE INFO: (877) 350-7378

Categories: Entertainment


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