Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 8, 2018

REVIEW: The Bushnell, Fiddler on the Roof

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through November 11, 2018
by Stuart W. Gamble

Photo by Joan Marcus
The oft-told tale of Tevye the milkman is given a fresh interpretation at Hartford’s Bushnell. Filled with timeless music composed by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, book by Joseph Stein based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, “Fiddler on the Roof” pays honor to tradition and nursing undying hope for the future. Opening night showed that this Broadway behemoth has lost none of its charm for the audience.

The success of this production lies largely, but not totally, on its central character. Israeli actor Yehezkel Lazarov makes a warm and welcoming Tevye. His sardonically funny quips and comments to God and the audience are full of just the right combination of chutzpah and sentiment. His Tevye is a feisty pushover to his strong-willed daughters Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shrprintze, and Bielke. But his comic confrontations with his wife Golde show who wears the proverbial pants. Musically, Lazarov does a solid job with his fine baritone voice, particularly when singing the opening “Tradition” and his signature “If I Were a Rich Man.” Maite Uzal’s Golde demonstrates the tireless energy needed to keep abreast of Tevye and their five daughters.

Mel Weyn’s Tzeitel pleasantly joins her sisters in the sweeping “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.” Hodel (Ruthy Froch) also displays defiant strength when choosing love and devotion over tradition and oppression as she liltingly sings of her torn loyalty to Tevye “Far from the Home I Love.” But most rebellious of all is middle daughter Chava (Natalie Powers), whose inner strength towers above her small stature. Each daughter is well matched with her prospective groom: Tzeitel’s intended Motel (Jesse Weil, a rubber legged comic gem), Hodel’s beau Perchik (the sharp witted and blunt speaking Ryne Nardecchia), and Chava’s gentile boyfriend Fyedka (the sweetly affable Joshua Logan Alexander).

This production is visually sumptuous yet simple. The brown and red overcoats, peasant dresses, head scarves, and caps are carefully tailored by costume designer Catherine Zuber. The huge ensemble moves effortlessly in this historical garb choreographed to rousing effect by Hofesh Schechter and Christoper Evans. The stunning sunset backdrop for the wedding scene and the quiet hymn “Sunrise, Sunset” is by scenic designer Michael Yearn. Direction by Bartlett Sher cannot be faulted. The actors are all comfortable in their characters’ skin.

Worth noting is the final image of the silhouetted denizens of Anatevka, off to their various destinations (Poland, the Holy Land, and America) moving in a continuous circular caravan.