Arts and Entertainment

‘Fiddler’ bucks tradition at Village Theatre

Tevye (played by Eric Polani Jensen) embraces daughter Tzeitel (played by Jennifer Weingarten) after she tells him she does not want to marry the butcher, Lazar Wolf.  -  JAY KOH, PROPERTY OF VILLAGE THEATRE.
Tevye (played by Eric Polani Jensen) embraces daughter Tzeitel (played by Jennifer Weingarten) after she tells him she does not want to marry the butcher, Lazar Wolf.
— image credit: JAY KOH, PROPERTY OF VILLAGE THEATRE.

You know you’re seeing good theater when there’s no telling where your emotions will take you next.

First, you laugh. It’s that hilarious moment when the lead character drinks too much.

Next, you’re swept off your feet. The boy next door finally breaks down and says, “I love you.”

Then, you cry. You’ve reached the dreaded battle between the head and the heart.

Before you even realize, you’re bouncing in your seat to another catchy tune.

You’ll feel all of this, and more, upon seeing Village Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Tradition. It’s the little things in life that shape us into the people were supposed to be. It’s also the opening number of the award–winning musical – and the overarching theme tying the story together.

Based on “Tevye and His Daughters” and other tales from Yiddish author and playwright Sholem Aleichem, the story follows Tevye, a struggling milkman in the fictional Russian village of Anatevka.

In the face of eviction by the Tsarist regime, Tevye struggles to cope with a variety of personal issues: pressure from his wife to find suitable matches for their three eldest daughters, the strong–willed actions of said daughters and the traditional customs of his Jewish faith.

Directed by David Ira Goldstein and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, Village Theatre’s production of “Fiddler of the Roof” features a star–studded cast, led by Eric Polani Jensen and Bobbi Kotula in the roles of Tevye and his wife, Golde.

Keeping with tradition, Jensen’s Tevye is a passionate and loyal Papa, a patriarch whose headstrong and hilarious – and an absolutely softy when it comes to the women in his life. Paired with Kotula’s Golde, sparks fly.

Sprinkled with hilarious anecdotes from the town’s matchmaker, Yente (played with zest by Laura Kenny), and elaborate musical numbers in the form of “Matchmaker,” “If I Were A Rich Man,” and “The Dream,” “Fiddler” takes us on a ride like no other – highlighting the good and bad that come with finding, fostering and letting love grow.

But the soul of the show lies in the relationships between Tevye and his eldest daughters – Tzeitel (Jennifer Weingarten), Hodel (Emily Cawley) and Chava (Mara Solar) – whose free spirits and nontraditional routes to marriage bring Tevye’s beliefs to the very brink.

As explained by Tevye in the opening scene, the Fiddler standing precariously on the roof is a metaphor for surviving, and prospering, in the face of change - an idea that is addressed time and time again throughout the production.

The famous “bottle dance” proved another high point of the production, with members of the ensemble scooting across the stage in sync as glass bottles balanced precariously atop their heads.

Like the unstable Fiddler, the dance is a point of uncertainty and a perfect example of finding balance between what’s expected - and what we aspire to be.

“Fiddler on the Roof” runs through Dec. 30 at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front Street North, Issaquah, and in Everett starting Jan. 4.

 

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