Fiddler on the Roof
Where: Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, through May 22
Tickets: $6 to $15
By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin
IT'S Kalani Brady's show, but several others shine in supporting roles as Army Community Theatre closes its 1998-99 main-stage season with "Fiddler on the Roof."
Brady is outstanding as Tevye, the poor and devout Jewish dairyman who talks to God as he faces the challenges brought by the new 20th century.
Tevye is warm where he should be, strong when he needs to be, powerful in his outbursts of anger, and both persistent and deferential when speaking to God. Brady has most of the best material and does a fine job with it. He also negotiates a light "Jewish" accent with more success than some other members of the cast.
Brady makes "If I Were A Rich Man" the showpiece it should be. He balances dramatic skills and vocal prowess effectively in "Tevye's Monologue" and "Tevye's Rebuttal." He sings well and projects effectively throughout.
It's only been about eight years since ACT last staged this ever-popular Broadway classic on Jewish life in turn-of-the-century Russia, but this revival merits a visit. The last ACT version is recalled by many for its glacial pacing. This time around, veteran director Glenn Cannon maintains a good sense of dramatic momentum while still giving choreographer Shirley Ann Stringer-Heller ample time along the way.
But back to Tevye. His position is almost as precarious as the hypothetical roof-top fiddler. The Jewish community faces the threat of organized violence in the aftermath of Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. Tevye faces turmoil within his family as well.
Russian Jews of Tevye's generation had marriages arranged for them, but his eldest daughter rejects the man he picks for her. The next tells him who she will marry. The third commits the ultimate sin of marrying a non-Jew.
Becky Maltby (Tzeitel) and Braddoc DeCaires (Motel) are a charming duo as the eldest daughter and her impoverished boyfriend. DeCaires is especially good in the key scene in which Motel finds the courage to speak forcefully to Tevye; DeCaires shows his stuff vocally with "Miracles of Miracles."
Vanessa Chang (Hodel) adds another memorable performance to her resume as the rebellious second daughter. Chang touches the heart with her acting. Her beautiful voice soars cleanly and clearly through several important musical numbers.
Stephanie Fodor (Chava) screams plaintively as the daughter Tevye casts out for marrying a Christian. Maltby, Chang, and Fodor mesh smoothly to make "Matchmaker" a light and pleasant interlude.
Makakilo "Maka" Ancheta adds good stage presence and noteworthy acrobatic skills as Chava's Russian suitor. Swaine Kaui needed more volume on opening night but otherwise held his own opposite Chang as the socialist student from Kiev who shocks the Jews of Anatevka by saying that girls should be allowed to read and that men and women should be able to dance together.
Susan Pester grows into the role of Tevye's sharp-tongued wife. Her duet with Brady is a romantic highlight in Act II. Michael Kroll (Lazar Wolf) and Jackie Brunberg (Grandma Tzeitel) stand out in smaller but important secondary roles.
Frank Kuhl is the gruff Russian who tells the Jews he only follows government orders in persecuting them.
Music director Lina Jeong Doo and her orchestra do a beautiful job interpreting the score. Cannon and Stringer-Heller add spectacle with their staging of "Tradition," "To Life" and "Sunrise, Sunset."
Broadway's musical adaptation of Sholom Aleichem's turn-of-the-century stories comes to a contemporary audience with undercurrents he could not anticipate.
We know what would come after 1905. Russia would be convulsed by World War I, the Russian Civil War, the organized genocide of communist collectivization and Stalinist purges, the horrors of World War II and the renewal of Stalinist terror after that.
So, when Tevye and his family are ordered to leave Anatevka we feel their pain but know that there is at least a ray of hope for them.
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