Review: 'Fiddler on the Roof' at Downtown Cabaret Main Stage

Steve Gifford

Even though Fiddler on the Roof is set in 1905, its themes and messages are timeless. More often than not,  present day audiences will find themselves more in common with the townspeople of "Anatevka", than they might have thought. But what the Downtown Cabaret Main Stage and director Joel Fenster, have done so creatively, is use present day headlines in a way that make the messages all the more potent in this iconic piece. Culminating in a chill inducing and insightful climax. 

Fiddler on the Roof takes place in Anatevka, a small Jewish village in Russia. The story revolves around the dairyman Tevye and his attempts to preserve his family’s traditions in the face of a changing world. When his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, begs him to let her marry a poor tailor, Mortel rather than the middle-aged butcher that he has already chosen for her, Tevye must choose between his own daughter’s happiness and those beloved traditions that keep the outside world at bay. Meanwhile, there are other forces at work in Anatevka, dangerous forces, which threaten to destroy the very life, he is trying to preserve.

 Photo: Kevin McNair

Photo: Kevin McNair

Playing the fatherly role of Tevye is Lou Ursone. It should be noted that Mr. Ursone reprised the role, having played it at Curtain Call in 2013. While I didn't see the previous production, Mr. Ursone presents a grounded Tevye, equally full of charisma and conflict. While he certainly is great in the more well known songs such as "If I Were a Rich Man" where Mr. Ursone really excels are the smaller moments with his wife and daughters. 

And as good as Mr Ursone is in these scenes, had he not also had the incredible talents of his family, they might not have been as genuine and endearing. As his wife, Golde, Karen Hanley has a wonderful understanding of the role. Her back and forth with Tevye is biting but loving. The "Matchmaker" daughters of Sara Detrik, Juliet Dale and Kalle Meehan are equally remarkable and charming. 

Providing some wonderful comic relief is Andrea Garmun as Yente and Bill Adams and Eric Regan add yet another fantastic performance to their belts as Motel and Perchik respectively. Adding wonderful support as always is Steve Benko as Lazar Wolf and Larry Greeley as Rabbi. I also thought Lisa Dahlstrom's appearance as Grandma Tzeitel was a particularly terrifying highlight.  

This production also featured a huge and talented ensemble which included Charlotte Masi, Abby Sara Dahan, Cassidy Meehan, Ainsley Dahlstrom, Timothy Sullivan, Lucas Cafaro,Tim Cronin, Kellen Schult, Bill Warncke, Avery Bebon, Zoe Bebon, Audrey Burns, Josh Cardozo, Jonathan David, Nicholas Ferreira, Bobby Henry, MIchael Johnston, Angela Jackson, Brianna Joy Jackson, Steven Kaplan, Alitha Krolikowski, Maggie Kruse, Marnie Kruse, Michael Major, Patrick McMenamey, Nicole Monahan, Claire Regan, Kitty Robertson, Alex Rosenberg, Sydney Sirkin, Qesar Veliu and Ava Vercellone.

Kudos should be presented to director Joel Fenster and music director Clay Zambo for staging and arranging this mammoth cast alone,  but both went above and beyond and delivered a heartfelt and meaningful production. The final moments of the show was an ingenious choice. Let also add and apologize for not mentioning on the first draft of this review, the spectacular choreography work of Lindsay Johnson. Ms. Johnson lovingly combined her own stamp on the material as well as paying tribute to Jerome Robbins' famous work.

While this production might have closed this past weekend, I'm willing to be that it will remain in the minds for those involved and those who were lucky enough to see it, for some time. I know it will with me.