Outstanding Production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Unfolds on Wick Theatre Stage in Boca

The acclaimed production, Fiddler on the Roof, winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, has been entertaining audiences since the tune- and tale-filled saga first took to the stage in 1964.

 One of the most beloved of Broadway musicals, with its pure and often hilarious reflections on love, forgiveness, tradition, community and wealth versus poverty, the show presents some of the most memorable show tunes of the past half century. 

The Wick Theatre in Boca Raton is currently hosting an exceptional edition of this touching old-world tale as the third performance of its five-show season.

A vast and talented ensemble of singers and actors – 32 in all — brings the heartwarming combination of narrative and story-telling vocals to the Wick stage They appear in flawless period garb within an appropriately constructed version of an impoverished Imperial Russian town, circa 1905.

Life was tough back then, the audience quickly learns, as Wick’s tender and moving production depicts the hard-working residents of the village of Anatevka in a heart-warming and exceedingly human way.

Based on a book by Joseph Stein, Fiddler on the Roof showcases music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, the talented librettist who recently passed away. The score features iconic songs such as “Sunrise, Sunset,”  “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and lead character Tevye’s beloved wish-filled tune, “If I Were a Rich Man.” 

In its nearly 10 years on Broadway, Fiddler won Tony awards for best musical, score, book, direction and choreography, among others. It spawned five Broadway revivals and a successful 1971 film adaptation, and continues to generate considerable international popularity. 

This musical is based on Sholem Aleichem’s story of “Tevye and his Daughters” and other tales he wrote, underscoring the need for love, freedom, family and, of course, “Tradition” – customs embodied in perhaps the best-known and most emotionally touching tune in the show. 

An exceptional trio leads the production: director Norb Joerder, fresh from helming Wick’s just-completed performance of Bye Bye Birdie; musical director Bobby Peaco, also a Bye Bye Birdie alum, and choreographer Robert Abdoo.

The story centers on Tevye (superb in look and actions by Wick newcomer and Broadway alum Bruce Sabath), a struggling milkman who tries to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences impinge upon his family’s lives. He must cope with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters who wish to marry for love. Their selections of husbands are successively less palatable for the old dairyman.

Top-flight veteran actress Patti Gardner is exceptional as Tevye’s sharp-tongued, but tender-hearted wife, Golde. 

Fiddler emphasizes the importance of traditions as anchors for society in an ever-changing world and the need to hang on to hope in a civilization that seems so dark and useless.  

The show does have its comic moments, and the songs are generally filled with hope. “Tradition” opens the program with Tevye and the ensemble recalling the mores and lore that brought the Jews to this point in their world. “Matchmaker” puts the spotlight on Tevye’s three older daughters, Tzeitel (Torie D’Alessandro) Hodel (Mallory Newbrough) and Chava (Caila Katz) who stylishly vocalize the wish of every young woman in Anatevka – to marry a rich man. 

In a way, that sets the stage for Tevye to put his own wishes into words and sing, “If I were a rich man,” a golden song that mingles ‘bidi-bidi-bum” syllables with haughty aspirations.

Tevye takes the lead again for the show’s pre-eminent song of toasting and cheer, “To Life.” The ensemble comes forward to join Tevye and Golde for “Tevye’s Dream” and the awe-inspiring ballad, “Sunrise, Sunset” as Act I closes.

With toasts aside, the show’s main theme – how Jewish religious and cultural traditions change and often fall to the encroachment of outside influences — begins to press upon Tevye. He copes as best he can with the strong-willed actions of his three elder daughters, but he must reluctantly yield ground.

Tzeitel holds fast to her choice to marry Motel (Michael Scott Ross), the tailor, forcing Tevye to renege on a vow that would have bound Tzeitel and butcher Lazar Wolf (Michael Small) in marriage. The meat cutter causes chaos at the wedding, and Russian police arrive and smash the wedding trappings.

Act II opens with the engagement of Hodel and Perchik (Alex Martinez), a scholar and Bolshevik revolutionary – a decision made without Tevye’s permission. After fuming and pondering, the milkman again gives in.

But the move doesn’t come without regret.  Hodel offers a moving lament, “Far from the home I love” as she emotionally leaves her father at the train station to join her husband who has been arrested and exiled to Siberia.

Tevye does manage to stand firm when Chava demands to marry a Christian man, Fyedka (Cameron Edris.) She and Fyedka elope and Tevye mourns her “loss” by singing the “Chava Sequence.”  He never gives his blessing to the joining.

The bad news doesn’t end here. Anatevka’s citizenry must deal with a crushing evacuation edict from the Tsar. Hope, love, courage and perseverance seem to be all these care-worn people have left when they sadly leave their homeland.

The show opens dynamically and maintains its fast pace until the marriages of the three daughters slows the action considerably.But the lengthy production still earns the much-deserved standing ovation from the audience.

Fiddler on the Roof runs through Feb. 11 at the Wick Theater, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Tickets are  $94 to $109 and are available at www.thewick.org or by calling the box office at 561-995-2333.

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