Reviewed by Joan Tupponce
You don’t have to pay the high prices and stand in the long lines in New York to see a Broadway-caliber show. Just head to Virginia Rep’s November Theatre to see Fiddler on the Roof. This production is Broadway good.
The show, originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, is set in the Russian village of Anatevka in 1905, a period when anti-Jewish hatred and Nazi ideology were on the rise. The action focuses on Tevye, a dairyman who lives with his wife and five daughters in a village steeped in tradition. But Tevye often has to choose between his precious traditions and the change that is inevitable in everyone’s life. He’s confronted with these changes not only because of the village’s impending takeover by soldiers but also because of the decisions made by his oldest daughters, each of whom asks him to go against tradition and let them marry the man they love. Whenever he is confronted with change, Tevye taps into his direct line to God and asks for the Almighty’s advice.
Director Richard Parison deserves credit not only for his casting choices but also for the creative team he has assembled for this production. The show moves along seamlessly at a steady pace, which means the hour-and-45-minute first act is over before you know it.
The ensemble cast is spot on. Standouts in the production include Tamara Johnson as Golde, Tevye’s strong-willed wife; Audra Honaker as Tzeitel, Tevye’s oldest daughter; Nicholas Park as Motel, Tzeitel’s husband; Brittany Simmons as Hodel, Tevey’s second daughter and Matt Zimmerman as Perchik, Hoda’s husband. I would be remiss if I didn’t also praise the assembly of male dancers in the show who light up the stage with their rousing, precise Russian dances.
Even with a stage full of standout performances and a talented ensemble cast, the show belongs to David Benoit who plays Tevye. His outstanding performance and rich vocals fill the theater. His portrayal is so authentic that you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing part. And yes, apologies to Zero Mostel – Benoit is that good.
Kudos also go to Brian Prather for his sparse-but-highly effective set, Karen Getz for her rousing choreography, Sue Griffin for the realistic costumes, and to Robert Perry for his wonderful lighting.
The holiday season may be busy, but be sure to make time to see Fiddler on the Roof. Part of Virginia Rep’s Signature Series at November Theatre, Fiddler on the Roof runs through January 12. Visit Virginia Repertory Theatre: Fiddler on the Roof, 2013 or call (804) 282-2620 for showtimes and ticket information.
Ask about same-day Rush tickets and U-Tix for university and high school students.