WEST VALLEY CITY — Fiddler on the Roof is a traditional and loved musical that has been performed many times by many companies over the years. For any theatre company it can be a difficult task to take on such a well-known script and score. Hale Centre Theatre’s director John Sweeney and producer Sally Dietlein along with the whole Hale Centre team approached the show with such creativity and professionalism that audiences are bound to be captivated by the performance.
You know the story. Tevye, a poor dairyman, and his family live in the small village of Anatevka, a strict Jewish community in Russia set during the early 1900’s. He and his wife, Golde, with the help of their town’s matchmaker, are in search for husbands for their three oldest daughters Tzeital, Hodel and Chava. However, the daughters would rather marry for love than to simply follow the tradition of their parents and their faith. Tevye is faced with the difficult task of letting go some of the traditions he holds so dear in order to keep his family together during a dangerous time of political unrest.
Overall the cast did a wonderful job connecting me with the many deep issues of religion, family and politics introduced by the script and music. Particularly, the actresses that portrayed the three older daughters (Lindsey Newman, Ariana Escelante, Ali Bennett) did a remarkable job exploring those feelings and emotion they felt as each fell in love. Out of the whole cast, my personal favorite was Yente the matchmaker (played by Chris Brown). She had perfect timing with her lines and brought humor into every scene she was in. The two roles I found slightly disappointing were those of Tevye (David Stenstrud) and Golde (Marcie Jacobsen). They’re voices were beautiful; but I didn’t feel the emotion and heartache as these two parents faced the family and political issues together. Though the show is full of humor, there is some real substance to this story. That’s why it’s a classic.
The musical talent in this production was impressive. The vocals were strong both in the solo performances and the chorus. Fiddler tells so much of its story through the songs, even more so than the dialog. That makes it vital for each word to be clear, a fact that sadly eludes many theatres (especially community theatres). Many musicals don’t place enough emphasis on the chorus numbers and then the meaning and story are often lost with the diction. This was certainly NOT an issue with HTC’s production. Musical director Kelly DeHann did a fabulous job not only with the soloist, but in directing a strong ensemble that carried the show forward without letting the audience get lost along the way. Lastly, the live fiddler, Aaron Ashton, was also very impressive and an excellent addition to the production.
The choreography was executed well. Each dance was fun to watch. I especially liked the wedding scene. Not all the movement was precise, however. The relatively small stage for such a large castcould be the reason. At times the cast almost looked cramped during the large dance sequences. Despite the limits in space, Set and Properties Designer Kacey Udy worked magic. Sets flew in unexpectedly from the ceiling and actors were visible from every vantage point of the audience.
Overall, I thought this was a great production of Fiddler on the Roof. Families will enjoy the night out, although it may be too long for younger children (3 hours). Plus, it is great to celebrate local talent when supporting such productions.
Fiddler on the Roof will be running from February 16 through April 10. Ticket prices range from $15 for children to $26 and can be purchased online at HaleCentreTheatre.org or by phone at (801) 984-9000 or at the Hale Centre Theatre box office, 3333 South Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City, Utah.