Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
Fiddler on The Roof
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Fiddler on the Roof opened with a stellar performance. The set of two bare tree trunk centre stage revolve, surrounded by a Yiddish quotation from "Shades of the Warsaw Ghetto" by Soviet-Yiddish poet Itzak Feffer. The backdrop is dark and shadowed, almost concealing the orchestra on the upper level. There is ample room for the numerous villagers of Anatevka to carry on a bustling trade with their barrow stalls or to dance with great elan. A deep sense of loneliness is evoked by subtle lighting for the single character on stage.
Jay Brazeau is the long suffering but enduring Tevye, the village leader on whom its people rely for wisdom and strength. He is only eking out a bare living and is as impecunious as most of his neighbours, though he has his dreams of riches. As his wife, Golde, played by Karin Konoval, is a practical mother of five daughters for whom she and Tevye must find suitable husbands. But suitability is not always acceptable or available for the daughters of the impoverished, and there are some of Tevye's troubles.
The whole family sings like angels. In fact, the whole village does so, from the more prosperous butcher (Kevin McNulty) to the poor students, matchmaker, tradesmen, women, and children, who all sing and dance joyously to the exhilarating music of the shadowed orchestra and the gracefully sinuous, balletic village fiddler (Matthew Rossoff).
The cold soullessness of political regime strikes harshly at these poor but happy people, driving them from their native soil into the dark unknown, to seek their fortunes in foreign lands. The lighting and music do much to assist the large cast in the sombre finale where the families' few belongings are loaded onto carts or bundled onto shoulders as the old folks and young parents, children and babes, set forth in hope into the unknown.
The singing and dancing in this production are of a high quality. The humorous dialogue is well managed and the characterization well developed. The coldness of the political impersonality comes as an icy contrast to the warm neighbourliness of the village community. Though the unhappy ending is unusual for a musical, this does not detract from enjoyment. It is a tribute to the endurance of the human spirit.
Fiddler on the Roof received a well deserved standing ovation on opening night.
Run: Monday - Saturday at 20.00, with matinees every Saturday and select Wednesdays as well as on Thursdays, 12 and 19 December at 14.00. The theatre is dark on Sundays, and on Mondays 9 and 16 December .
Tickets: $44-59 (seniors $38-49, students $24-29). Group rates are available, and rush seats ($24) are sold one hour before performance, subject to availability. Contact the Playhouse Audience Service Office at 604.873.3311, or Ticketmaster or Ticketmaster at 604.280.3311.
© 2002, Jane Penistan