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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Book by Joseph Stein, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Music by Jerry Brock

Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players

Directed by Kate Hicks
Vocal Director – Pam Elam
Choreographer – Keli Price
Scenic Artist – Mayre Stewart
Costumes – Mackenzie Pillow, Lisa Pillow
Lighting – Leah King, Claudia Gaarz
Properties – Mindy Wilborn, Teri Gill

CAST:
Jay Lewis as Tevye
Mayre Stewart as Goldie
Rachel Daniels as Tzeitel
Bryanna Levac as Hodel
Edna Gill as Chava
Kayden Moore as Shprintze
Joelle Watson as Bielke
Keli Price as Yente
Andrew Guzman as Motel
Weslee Vance as Perchik
Hillard Cochran as Lazar Wolf
Jared Ball as Mordcha
Rick Briscoe as Rabbi
Alan Meadows as Mendel
Barry Swindall as Avram
Juan Crespo as Nachum
Pam Elam as Grandma Tzeitel
Marcie Allison as Frumah-Sarah
Meagan Sellers as Rifka
Charli Vance as Ruth
Ed Sanders as Constable
Kylar Dobbs as Fyedka
Jason Calahan as Yussel
Debra Nix as Shaindel
Frances Watson as Mirala
Devin Eubanks as Jewish Food Vendor
Rose Peterson as The Fiddler
Sandra Arnold, Jakolby Bryant, Alex Ivey, Erin Ivey, Jennifer Moore, Maddyn Moore, Brittany Morgan, Cheyenne Nix, Elizabeth Nix, Iain Nix, Pansi Noe, Patti Noe, Rickie Noe, Reudi Noe, Erin Pillow, Mallory Sellers, Rachel Williamson, Tim Wright as Jewish Villagers

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF






Reviewed Performance 6/28/2013

Reviewed by Joel Taylor, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Fiddler on the Roof is a popular musical based on Tevye and His Daughters (or Tevye the Milkman and Other Tales) by Sholem Aleichem. The story is set in turn of the century Russia a few years before World War I and the Russian Revolution, and centers around Tevye, the father of five daughters. Tevye struggles to keep his family together and his Jewish faith and traditions intact as outside influences intrude on their lives and on the village in which they have lived their entire lives.

Walking into the theatre for The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players production of this endearing musical, I was surprised at its size. The house contains spacious seating that offers more than adequate leg room. The performing space includes a large proscenium stage that is both deep and very wide. A useable apron wraps around the front of the stage with entrance and exit doors on both sides. The entire stage, apron, the front space between the stage and audience and the side aisles are used in this production.

Scenic Artist Mayre Stewart designed a set that is largely portable, very creative and, for the most part, effective. Stewart framed the downstage right and left areas with trunks and branches of large trees. This design created a more rounded, naturalistic setting to the otherwise square, block design of the stage. All other set pieces are moved on and off stage as needed for specific scenes.

Tevye's home, the tailor shop and tavern area were very creatively built and painted and gave the illusion of bringing you into the world of the village.

Tevye's cart is well-designed, constructed and very effectively used throughout the show. Stewart used a clever design for the bed in the dream sequence that allowed one of the actors to use the bed creatively. The set design and use were one of the highlights of this production.

Mindy Wilborn and Teri Gill generally did a very good job gathering the myriad of props needed for this production, indeed a huge challenge. I did notice that the brooms used by the daughters in the musical number "Matchmaker" were of modern design. In the scene inside the bar for the musical number "To Life", the tables, chairs and other small props in the bar area added to the realism of the scene.

However, it was obvious the Russian soldiers were drinking from empty bottles and glasses.

The costuming choices and creations by costumers Mackenzie and Lisa Pillow deserve recognition. Designing and/or finding period costumes for such a large cast can be a herculean effort.

Despite an occasional modern shoe design peering from under a pant or dress and an obviously fake beard on the Rabbi and a few other male members of the ensemble, the costume team succeeded admirably in the design, texture and colors of the time period and various cultures.

Keli Price choreographed over a dozen musical numbers in this production. Several of them were beautifully planned and executed, such as the opening number "Tradition" in which the entire village is onstage, moving to stylized and synchronized steps. Likewise, the dance in the bar during the musical number "To Life" was very energetic. I was impressed with the skill and enthusiasm of the Russian soldiers as they performed a modification of the traditional Cossack dance. The dance and choreography of this show was well done and should be seen to be fully appreciated.

In critiquing the performances, I must bring up an incident that seemed to have an effect on several of the actors, as well as some of the audience members. An audience member sitting in the center of the front row very obviously used her cell phone to take pictures and video clips during almost the entire production. I watched some actors react either in a positive or negative way to such a blatant and unauthorized recording of their performance while other actors either did not seem affected by the disturbance, or were effectively able to ignore it.

Jay Lewis did an exceptional job in the role of Tevye. During the opening sequence, Lewis was a bit stiff and awkward, but as the show progressed, he seemed to relax into becoming Tevye and his skills shined. Most notable were the scenes with his daughters as each made an important decision that would impact each of their lives. Lewis understood the world of his character and interacted well with the other actors so that the audience connected with Tevye to feel what he felt. When Tevye and Golde sang "Do you Love Me", I could feel the sincerity from Lewis.

Mayre Stewart as Goldie looked the part of an overworked, stressed and sometimes anxious mother. There were times when, through her actions and interactions, I completely believed Stewart was Goldie. At the beginning of the scene which includes "Matchmaker", Stewart ordered the daughters around with an accustomed demeanor of someone used to ordering around children and managing a household. As the show progressed, though, I found many of her gestures and actions became repetitive and occasionally mechanical. During "Do you Love Me", I did not feel the same sincerity from Stewart as I felt with Lewis.

Rachel Daniels as Tzeitel, Bryanna Levac as Hodel and Edna Gill as Chava, were individually and in unison one of the highlights of this production. Each had a beautiful singing voice and onstage was in the reality of their character, feeling and reacting to their circumstances. In their scenes with the young men they fall in love with, these actresses showed the audience, through body language, voice and facial expression, what their character felt in that circumstance and situation. Their scenes together, such as when they danced and sang "Matchmaker", clearly showed the connection these three actresses had with each other and their ability to share that connection with the audience. Individually, their scenes with Tevye will melt the heart of any father. Daniels, as Tzeital, has the added benefit of working opposite of Andrew Guzman as Motel.

Andrew Guzman simply and naturally was Motel, the tailor. He confidently allowed the insecurities of Motel to be apparent in the beginning and then, as the story progressed and Motel developed more confidence, Guzman skillfully showed the many layers of his character.

The ease of interaction and connection that Guzman had with his fellow actors was a pleasure to watch.

Weslee Vance as Perchik seemed stiff and reserved throughout the show, not showing much emotion. However, his dialogue leads the audience to believe he is an activist and very passionate about righting the wrongs of the world and being a force of change. This resulted in a lack of connection between the actions of the actor and the words of the character.

Keli Price was amazing and occasionally funny as Yente. She was energetic, highly enthusiastic, with over-the-top gestures and bubbly personality. Her big scene was genuinely funny and Price had good comedic timing and control. After awhile, though, I did observe repetitive gestures and vocal tone with little variety, as though a bit over-rehearsed or choreographed.

Any period and culture specific show such as Fiddler on the Roof offers a challenge to suspend the disbelief of sitting in an auditorium or theatre and instead bring you into the world of a turn of the century Russian Jewish village. This production's design team and some good acting, singing and choreography helped The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players be largely successful with this challenge. While there were a few things in this production that were "diamonds in the rough", there were also some very good successes that will have you at times laughing or appreciating the multiple and often difficult dance sequences and good singing. You might also come away with a better understanding of one man's frustrations as he tries to deal with and make sense of the changes that are happening in his world, the feeling of intimacy he has with God, and that special bond between a father and his daughters.




FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
Cleburne Conference Center, 1502 West Henderson
Cleburne, Texas 76033

Runs through July 14th
Friday - Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sunday at 2:30pm
Tickets are $13.00 and $9.00 for seniors and children.
For info & tix: www.carnegieplayers.org or call their box office at 1-817-645-9255.