Tradition stays alive in ‘Fiddler’
December 6, 2001
By George R. Hubbard
“Tradition!” Theodore Bikel stepped onto the stage of the Palace Theatre Tuesday night as Tevye and launched “Fiddler on the Roof,” and I immediately knew that the tradition was alive and well.
Three hours later, after weddings, pogroms and heartbreaks, I was yelling and cheering and hoping the tradition would long continue.
All of the other roles are beautifully played (though no one quite reaches Bikel’s depth). Michael Iannucci as Motel the tailor, Sara Schmidt as Chava and Rachel Jones as Hodel are particularly fine.
Jonathan Hadley as Perchik the revolutionary student is a believable catalyst for change and disruption. I thought Iannucci was going right into the orchestra pit at one point during his stage-covering song and dance “Miracle of Miracles.”
Jones’ singing of “Far From the Home I Love” as Hodel starts on her journey to join Perchik in exile was the musical high point of the evening. Brad Drummer is excellent in the crucial role of Fyedka, the Russian who falls in love with Chava.
Susan Cella as Golde, Tevye’s wife, is occasionally shrill but always in character. Her leading of “Sabbath Prayer” was poignant and her “Do You Love Me” duet with Bikel pushed the envelope of marital “bliss” as far as one could expect.
Sammy Dallas Bayes has directed this touring production, a PNC Broadway in Louisville presentation, and has reproduced the original Jerome Robbins choreography. The dancing is simply splendid! Only a few of the dancers are listed by name, but the entire company moves with grace and spirit.
The big production numbers are so alive and vibrant that they threaten to spill right off the stage. “To Life” is so boisterous that the tavern nearly explodes, with the interweaving of the dances of the Jewish men and the Russian men handled with plenty of excitement.
“Tevye’s Dream” had wonderful ghosts and eerily exotic costumes and makeup for the chorus. “The Wedding Dance” builds up and up until the shock of Perchik’s revolutionary introduction of mixed dancing, topped by the horror of the pogrom.
But the small scenes don’t get lost. Tevye’s conversations with God are frequently winsome, and the various encounters and love scenes of his three older daughters ring all the changes on the human condition.
Steven L. Gilliam’s set for the village of Anatevka, based on the Boris Aronson original, dances almost as much as the cast, and the many scene changes happen swiftly and seamlessly.
Next performance: At 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Louisville Palace, 625 S. Fourth St.