Human Race succeeds with pared down ‘Fiddler on the Roof’
By Brian P. Sharp
I’m not sure just how many times I have seen “Fiddler on the Roof.” I do know that I have never seen a version quite like what I saw Friday night at The Loft theatre at the Human Race Theatre’s opening night of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Kevin Moore directed this production with a new eye for an old favorite.
“Fiddler on the Roof” – with book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick – has earned many awards, including nine Tony Awards and three Oscars for the film version. This show is a favorite of all ages. The show is timeless and shows the struggles of family dealing with change, as well as a community with change forced upon them.
I must say, if you are an old traditionalist, you may be disappointed that there aren’t more people on the stage. However, if you are a person that enjoys a new take on an old tradition – this might just be the show for you.
There were some great performances in this pared down version. Certainly, Drew Helton was a standout in his performance as Motel the tailor. Helton gave a convincing performance as the tailor that lacks the confidence to stare love in the face and ask for Tevye’s permission to marry Tzeitel. Helton pulls you in and makes the audience root for him as he finally makes his move. Helton earned his BFA from Wright State University.
Josh Kenney delivered a strong performance as Perchik the student. Kenney took the role of the political radical to a high level. A passionate performance of the need for change – Kenney was impressive.
Another bright spot came from the performance by Charity Farrell as Hodel. A former Daytonian now living in New York City, Farrell grew up on the stages of Dayton and has certainly blossomed into quite the actress. In the song “Far From the Home I Love,” Farrell delivers a heartfelt performance that leaves the audience in tears.
Ashley Campana plays Chava, the daughter that falls in love with a Russian and marries outside of her faith. Campana tears at your heartstrings when she approaches her father, only to be told that he cannot accept her decision. As Tevye walks away, Campana is screaming for her papa, knowing they may never see each other again.
Rachel Coloff was a strong and powerful Golde – the mother that keeps this family together. Trying to do what she needs to survive, Coloff delivers a touching performance in “Do You Love Me.” As we watch Golde grow and change throughout the show as her traditions are all shaken. Coloff delivers great emotion throughout the show.
The Fiddler was an interactive role in this performance and George Abud delivered with great personality. Abud has been playing the violin and performing with his family since the age of six. A native of Detroit, Abud certainly brings a new dimension to this role.
Tzeitel was played by Christine Zavakos. A native of Dayton, Zavakos lead the way of the family in changing tradition. Zavakos was a highlight among the sisters.
Local notables were Saul Caplan in a strong performance as Lazar Wolf, the butcher. Saul brings great personality to the stage and as always delivers! Jeff Sams as the Constable was strong and compassionate for a people that were not his own. Sams teaches English, speech and theatre courses at Franklin High School. K.L. Storrer was convincing as the Rabbi who is also forced to deal with changing traditions in a world of changes.
Other highlights were Matty Rickard as Mendel the Rabbi’s son, as well as the singing and dancing Russians – Adam Lendermon (Sasha), Eric Byrd (Vanya) and Adam Brown (Fyedka) – all delivered powerful performances.
This pared down version had musicians also taking on small parts and being part of the production. While it seemed to work in most cases, there were awkward moments where it became cumbersome. There were problems with diction for some of the cast members, and at times the pacing felt raced and forced.
I am one of those traditional Fiddler fans, so while there were certainly highlights in this production, I just felt at times it lacked emotion. That said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like the show, it just means that maybe emotion will come – I was there opening night – and there are plenty of performances ahead. There will even be a “Fiddler on the Roof” sing along at the end of the run that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
This is not a show to be missed, because no matter how many times you see “Fiddler,” you can always see it again! Give this pared down version a chance, it’s something new, and that is exactly what we count on from The Human Race Theatre Company.
The Human Race Theatre presents “Fiddler on the Roof” through Saturday, Nov. 30, at The Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St. Tickets can be purchased online at ticketcenterstage.com or by calling 937.228.3630. For more information, please visit humanracetheatre.org.