FIDDLER ON THE ROOF– Music by Jerry Bock; Lyrics by Sheldon Hernick; Book by Joseph Stein; Directed by Kenny Moten; Music Direction by Neal Dunfee; Choreographed by Danielle Scheib and Jessica Hindsley. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe, Boulder) through January 13. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or BDTStage.com.
Before you glance to the bottom of the page to see, this FIDDLER rates a perfect 10. Not only is the show cast perfectly, but the knowledge that this is the final production lends a special grace to each performance. No spoiler for this script we’ve all seen dozens of times to reveal that the ending finds the villagers of Anatevka being forced to leave their beloved homeland, separate and travel to an unknown future. The parallels between the script and the plight of this band of actors, most of whom have worked together for years, cannot be ignored. In this rotating cast of 33 players, only seven are new to BDT and four of those are child actors. How lucky are these newbies who have a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform in a production of this quality and to be a part of the 46-year history.
You might as well get another cup of coffee. This is going to be a long one. These people have entertained me for a long time. I want to do right by them – every one.
Let’s start at the top with the two players who propel this story of family. Wayne Kennedy IS Tevye. Plain and simple, there it is. Not only has he played this role at least four or five times and has honed it to perfection, the role so ably echoes his own quiet, gentle, thoughtful personality. Over the years he has branched out and developed other skills, such as Sound Design for most of the BDT shows for the last decade. In his non-theatrical life, I can imagine him leaning into a conversation with the God of Sound Design about why a certain speaker isn’t working or why a particular sound effect doesn’t sound right. As Tevye, these conversations with his God reveals his simple desire to be a rich man, to understand the world he lives in, to comprehend the ambiguity of the changing customs in the lives of his daughters, and to express his sorrow at the evolving social situation in his homeland. Without knowing him, Joseph Stein wrote those scenes in 1964 for Wayne Kennedy to give them life in 2023. Thank you, Mr. Stein.
Alicia (Ally to her friends) Meyers’ own motherly behavior with daughter Prugh, herself a gifted young actress, has given her the chops to mother five daughters onstage as Golde, Tevye’s wife. As Golde, she is harried, traditional, welcoming, protective, controlling and gently loving. Her relationship to Tevye is the hand inside the glove. She is unconsciously loving to her daughters, graceful in her movements and embarrassed to be asked about her own feelings. Ally’s casual natural manner of expressing Golde’s place in the world is a Master Class in acting. Nothing that could possibly accidentally happen on the stage would fluster the quiet confidence of Golde.
These two are more than ably assisted by the remainder of the cast. Indulge me for a second to allow me to heap a little praise on the people who have served this theatre and this community of theater attendees for so many years by mentioning their special talents. Bob Hoppe is a senior as well with sixteen years of performances under his belt. His dancing has enhanced many a SINGING IN THE RAIN; his King Arthur in CAMELOT moved him into the leading roles he had earned; his Nick Bottom in SOMETHING’S ROTTEN was brilliant. Tracy Warren is also a beloved returnee, this time playing the well-balanced Fiddler (don’t ask – she won’t reveal if she is really playing the fiddle from the roof). Tracy has done so many roles over the years, but my personal favorite was her Christine in the Yeston-Kopit version of PHANTOM. “I’m Home” resonates with everyone who loves theatre.
Scott Severtson has called BDT home for twelve years and has excelled in multiple roles, everything from romantic leads, to singing crooners and madcap dancers. My personal favorites being his cocky Gaston in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and his equally cocky Shakespeare in the recent SOMETHING’S ROTTEN. We all know “How Hard it is to be the Bard.” Seamus McDonough who has been charged with bringing this whole adventure to a dignified conclusion, has done an elegant job of the process. In addition to his normal duties as Producing Artistic Director, he was also cast as Fyedka, the Russian who wins the love of middle daughter Chava and breaks her father’s heart. Brian Cronan as Motel the tailor returned after his winning role as Nigel in SOMETHING’S ROTTEN on the heels of many many performances at BDT.
Old-timers AK Klimpke and Brian Norber are coming back to play the Rabbi for one last show. AK is remembered for his easy laid-back roles as the leads in THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES and PAINT YOUR WAGON. Brian is known for his sterling performance as The Man in the Chair in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. My personal favorite was his Tommy Tune-like turn in MY ONE AND ONLY. Mary McGroary comes back to play Grandma Tzeitel. Brian Burron and his bride Bren. Eyestone Burron are doing Lazar Wolf, the discarded groom, and Yente, the matchmaker, a role she shares with Annie Dwyer, another favorite of BDT audiences. Bren. is remembered as the crazy Church Lady in that series while Annie stopped the show in DISENCHANTED as a frustrated Disney Princess.
Relative newcomers are Abigail Kochevar who delights as oldest daughter Tzeitel joined by Jennesea Pearce as second daughter Hodel who falls in love with a radical student. Alei Russo as middle daughter Chava shares a beautiful dance moment with her father. Anna High who has thrilled audiences with her bigger-than-life personality, is a spooky Fruma Sarah. Eric Heine, a frequent recruit from Candlelight, took an honored place among the villagers of Anatevka. Melissa Morris joins as a villager and understudies all three daughters.
And finally, the first-timers who add their talent to this production are Aaron Szindler, Jazz Mueller and Chris Tempel. It’s too bad we won’t get to see them back on this stage again. But watch for them in future productions in other theatres. The children’s parts were ably filled by Daisy O’Brien, Lily Sergeeff, Elise Meier, Etta McCurdy, Kieran O‘Brien, Uri Novak, Noah Levey and Ocean Ogren.
Too many times theatre companies fall into closure for a variety of reasons – usually something to do with money. BDT has done it right and given us the opportunity for a long good-bye and one more peek at the troop in action. DO NOT MISS this chance to see a magnificent production of FIDDLER and the opportunity to say “Thanks for the Memories.”
A WOW factor of 10!!