Reviewed by George Basler
Fiddler on the Roof, being performed this weekend and next by the Endicott Performing Arts Center (EPAC) Repertory Company, is a superb production of one of Broadway’s greatest musicals.
What makes the musical great, besides the obvious elements of top-notch songs and writing, is its underlying theme.
At its center, Fiddler is about the issue of tradition versus change as the main character of Tevye, a dairyman, and his family live though wrenching upheavals in a Jewish shtetl in 1905 Tsarist Russia. How important is tradition in a person’s life? How do institutions adapt to changing times without losing their essential cores? How do individuals bend to changes in society without jettisoning their essential beliefs?
These questions remain as relevant as they were in 1905 when the Jewish author Scholem Aleichem wrote the story “Tevye and His Daughters” on which Fiddler is based. Just this past week, one of the most persistent themes in post-presidential election analyses was the change in American society, makeup and mores, and, on Electioin Day, three states became the first ever to approve same sex marriage by public vote.
So could a show about change as a way of life be any more current? Especially prescient is the fact that Fiddler explores changes in the institution of marriage as Tevye’s daughters confront age-old customs and traditions in finding their loves and life partners.
Let’s not get too heavy, though. If done correctly, Fiddler is a thoroughly entertaining show with a can’t-miss mixture of humor and poignancy and a musical score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick that is one of the greatest in Broadway theater history. The book by Joseph Stein is formidable as well.
And the EPAC production is more than up to the task. In a nutshell, it’s an outstanding community theater effort, thoroughly entertaining from the first scene on and emotionally moving at the end.
To begin with, Lou Ligouri as Tevye gives what can only be described as a bravura performance. Playing the character successfully requires portraying Tevye’s essential Jewishness without falling into the trap of ethnic stereotyping. Ligouri maintains the balance perfectly. He sings tremendously and avoids all temptations to ham up the character.
The rest of the cast is also first-rate. There is no weak link. Take the program and write “excellent” next to every name, and you have my review.
That being said, special credit should go to Paula Bacorn as Golde, Tevye’s wife, and to Megan Germond and Rachel Hucko as Tevye’s eldest daughters. Both young women have killer singing voices and real acting chops. Also impressive were Michael Farley-Kelly and Simon Hucko as their suitors. Del Carraway stood out in the often-overlooked role of Mendel, the rabbi’s son.
However, everyone in the cast should take a bow. The ensemble numbers were tremendous. The direction by Patrick Foti keeps the action flowing seamlessly. Maureen Helms is the musical director, and Rene Neville is the choreographer. Teresa Battestin and Foti did the scenic design and costumes.
A special shout-out should go to the stage crew members who have to do their own choreography to keep the complex set moving.
I can’t say enough good things about this show. If you’re parents looking to introduce your adolescent child to the Broadway musical, this is the show for you.
And watch for the bottles and hats at the end of the first act. You’ll have to see the show to find out what I’m talking about,
Performances are 8 p.m. today (Nov. 10) and 3 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 11) and 8 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 and 3 p.m. Nov. 18 at EPAC, 102 Washington Ave., Endicott. Tickets are $18 ($15 for children 12 and under/seniors 65 and older). All seats are reserved and can be purchased by calling the EPAC box office at 785-8903 or online at http://www.Endicottarts.com.