As a child, I spent many hours in my grandparents’ kitchen, as I visited with them, ate meals or finished homework. Occasionally, my grandmother would take a decorative bronze dustpan down from the wall and crank the knob on the side. The lilting first notes of “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof would spill from the dustpan music box, always making me smile. As I watched Howard County Summer Theatre’s production of Fiddler of the Roof, the same childhood smile crept across my face, and I was filled with a mix of nostalgia and warmth throughout every minute of the show.
With a book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of Tevye, a poor Jewish dairy farmer living in the small Russian town of Anatevka in 1905. The town is adamant about keeping its Jewish traditions but must slowly learn that alterations, if not outright changes, are necessary. One of the most glaring changes revolves around marriage and considering which is more important–keeping to the old ways or allowing for love?
Although he has performed in over 50 shows, this is the first time I saw Mo Dutterer (Tevye) onstage, as I am used to his directorial talents. His performance as Tevye shows that Dutterer is as talented as an actor as he is as a director. Dutterer has an incredible stage presence, and his rich and deep voice is miraculous from the first notes of “Tradition” through the last notes of “Anatevka.” Even from the back of the theatre, I could see the happy glint in his eye as he danced during “If I Were a Rich Man”–this man shows that acting is a pure joy!
Playing Tevye’s wife, Robyn Bloom is outstanding as the outspoken Golde, and her voice is beautiful during “Sunrise, Sunset.”
Stephanie Ichniowski sweetly plays their eldest daughter Tzeitel, and David Fisher plays her beloved – the cute and cowardly tailor Motel, who does a marvelous job with his rendition of “Miracle of Miracles.”
Playing the second daughter Hodel is the lovely Kelsey Reichard, whose operatic voice is absolutely gorgeous during her portions of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “Sunrise, Sunset.” Hodel’s love, the radical student Perchik, is played by the amazing Justin Moe, whose performance of “Now I Have Everything” and his solo during “Sunrise, Sunset” show that he is destined for Broadway.
After her character Chava falls in love with the Russian guard Fyedka (played by Nathan Moe), the enchanting Kassi Mattera performs the “Chava Ballet” with such beauty and grace that it took my breath away (much applause to Choreographer Amanda Tschirgi for this and all of her other dances!) Her younger sisters Shprintze and Bielke (played by Madi Heinemann and Maggie Williams) are absolutely adorable.
Stephanie Clark is hilarious as the meddling Yente, and Fiddler Nithin Venkatraman’s musical talents are absolute perfection.
Tom Sankey once again marvels his audience with his excellent direction, and I was especially impressed by his choice to have many groups throughout the theatre enacting their own Sabbath dinners during “Sabbath Prayer.”
Directed by Kevin George, the live orchestra beautifully backed Vocal Director Christopher Hettenbach’s incredible singers, and the combination of the vocal and instrumental musicians gave me chills.
Costume Director Laural Seivold Clark included a wardrobe perfectly suited to early 1900’s Russia, and I must especially commend her on Tevye and Golde’s adorable nightclothes and Tzeitel’s gorgeous wedding veil.
Lighting Designers and Directors Alex Giosa and Zack Stewart made sure the actors and scenes were always able to shine, and they did exceptional work during “Tevye’s Dream.”
Set Designer Pete Johnson created a simple and beautiful set which perfectly captures the simplistic beauty of both Anatevka and Fiddler on the Roof as a whole.
If you want to see a heartwarming show that the entire family will enjoy, then Howard County Summer Theatre’s production of Fiddler on the Roof is your “perfect match!”
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes plus a 15 minute intermission.