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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 16, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 46
L'Chaim!- The Village Theatre revives a Broadway tradition
Arts & Entertainment
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L'Chaim!- The Village Theatre revives a Broadway tradition

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
VILLAGE THEATRE
Through December 30 (Issaquah)
January 4 - 27 (Everett)


Fiddler on the Roof is, almost inexplicably, one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. Almost inexplicable partly because it's about Jews in Czarist Russia (why would the rest of society be interested?) and partly because it starts off with lots of joy and laughter and slowly turns darker and darker (honestly, does that description make you want to go see it?). Still, it is an amazing, affecting, beautiful musical, and the current production at Village Theatre shows it off to its best advantage.

Really, the allure is because it's focused on one family in particular, and everyone knows someone just like one of those family members. The specific creates the universal. Tevye, the dairyman, longs for riches, as he tells God, but mostly wants to feel that his five daughters will be able to find comfortable lives for themselves, just as he and his wife Golde have managed to eke out a decent life, albeit a financially challenging one.

As we're introduced to Tevye (wry and generous Eric Polani Jensen) and Golde (engaging, pragmatic Bobbi Kotula) and the five girls, Tzeitel (Jennifer Weingarten), Hodel (Emily Cawley), Chava (Mara Solar), Shprintze (Tatum Ludlam), and Bielke (Annaliese Emerson Guettinger), we meet the various townspeople of Anatevka, the tiny village where the family lives. They all sing about Tradition and how it grounds them and gives them identity.

In a way, their convictions are enviable. Their certainty is admirable and their understanding of their place in the world is clear and simple. At the top of their list is their adherence to God's rules, their love of family and their connection to each other. What's not to love about that?

THE WORLD INTRUDES
But Life is not so kind to this village. As the lovable matchmaker Yente (scene-stealing Laura Kenny) tries to find husbands for the girls, tradition is flouted when they want to choose for themselves, instead. Indeed, first Lazar Wolf (Matthew Posner) is chosen for Tzeitel, and she begs Tevye to let her marry Motel the Tailor (Joshua Carter) instead. To get out of his promise to Lazar, Tevye pretends to dream about Lazar's first wife - dead, of course - making a horrible threat.

In the highlight of the production, with a huge puppet and scary lighting (by Rick Paulsen), Kathryn Van Meter's choreography tells the story of the dream in a hysterical sequence of organized chaos. Once Golde knows that the dead wife has cursed the couple, the engagement can be broken. Later, dark clouds gather over the town after a lovely wedding, when local constables make a show of vandalizing just a little.

David Ira Goldstein has assembled a top-notch local cast, evocative scenic designer Bill Forrester, master music director Bruce Monroe and a horde (literally) of support personnel to create a triumphant production. Know that it's a long production - it just is, but every moment is important.

As Hodel falls for a young man who is agitating for progressive change in Russia (Aaron Finley) and Chava decides her love for a non-Jew (Mike Spee) is stronger than her fear of being shunned by her family, change inexorably moves in. Still, we love the family and root for them to succeed. By the end of the musical, it should be crystal clear why this improbable musical is so very popular. For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call (425) 392-2202. Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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