Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fiddler on the Roof - A Smash Hit

I had the opportunity last week to see the Encore Theater production of Fiddler on the Roof in Jerusalem. I left the theater flying with excitement and filled with so much music and spectacle that I wanted to dance down the steps of the Hirsch Theater and sashay through the lobby with my date (my mother-in-law).
However, being considerate I didn't want to take any spotlight away from this stunning production, and besides that, my mother-in-law isn't really into dancing in front of 400 strangers.
Folks asked me how Encore's Fiddler was, and I said that if I described how great it was, people would think I was being paid by the theater company. It was that good.
There are two more performances in Jerusalem: Tues, June 22 and Wed, June 23. I told the Encore folks that they should keep going. This show is just too good to close down right now.
Really. The atmosphere was fabulous. The Chagall backdrop was a perfect touch for the little shtetl Anatevka of 1906 based on Sholom Aleichem's tale of Tevye the Milkman. The costumes were just perfect. The Encore Theater company is one of the best community theater groups in Israel. Their leads, all of them, especially Tevye, were incredible. Really, the entire cast, down to the smallest child, was terrifically talented and disciplined.
I was proud of the folks from my hometown that took the stage. In whatever roles they performed, my friends are stars!! To all the Efratians in Fiddler – you're stars!!!
On stage: Peter Abelow, Johnny Lemberger, Yoni Ben Ari, Tzachi Goldstein
Musicians: Bill Bozen, Yechiel Lock
Make-up: Shira Abelow
Efratian in her heart: Choreographer Arlene Chertoff
And Alon Shvut's Paul Salter, Music Director
There are so many other Gush Etzion folks in the show, bli neder, I'll try to get their names.
The staging by Director Robert Binder was clever and creative. The Fruma Sarah nightmare sequence was just a feat of brilliance and innovation. The musical end of the show was glorious. Kudos to Musical Director Paul Salter for filling the hearts of the audience with the most beautiful tones and timbres. Choreographer Arlene Chertoff deserves praise once again for bringing out the foot-tapping finest in her cast.
Encore has been bringing Gilbert & Sullivan and Broadway musicals to Jerusalem, Raanana, Netanya, Haifa, etc. since 2006. Every season, its productions have improved in quality. And just when you think they can't get any better, they wow you with..Fiddler on the Roof.
The production was so likeable, it was actually problematic for me. I am not a great fan of the theme of Fiddler. The production's show-stopper, "Tradition" talks about preserving tradition, and yet the entire show is based on the unravelling of tradition in Anatevka and the Jewish world at the time. One after another, Tevye accedes to his children's rejection of tradition. As he says, if we pull out the first string of tradition, all of tradition will unravel. (It doesn't matter that it's the show's comic tradition of shidduchim, or anything else, it's the point of rejecting tradition). His words prove true when he is put to the ultimate test of Jewish tradition - the intermarriage of his daughter, which Tevye clearly states, is just one unravelling too many.
But what could I do? I wanted to dislike Fiddler, but the Ecore production was so marvelous, I adored it and so did the rest of the audience.
Anyone who's lucky enough to have seen it, or has tickets for the last two performances, will be singing the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harwick tunes for weeks to come.

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