Theater Review: 'Fiddler on the Roof' at OCPAC
|Courtesy of Troika Entertainment|
My favorite part of the touring production of Fiddler on the Roof, now currently playing at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, was not the love stories between the three young couples. Instead, it is the scene that is so rare within movies and musicals: between the long-married husband and wife.
The milkman Tevye turns and curiously asks his wife of 25 years, Golde, "Do you love me?"
Her incredulous response: "For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes/Cooked your meals, cleaned your house/Given you children, milked the cow...If that's not love, what is?"
It's not romantic in the traditional way frequently depicted in mass media, but the sentiment feels real--and after 25 years of being married to someone, that question is bound to come up from time to time. There's the main theme of Fiddler on the Roof: love. Whether it's spousal love, young love, or family love, it is shown to be able to withstand separation, poverty, and the usual misfortunes.
Chaim Topol plays Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman living in Russia, who must decide between his love for his daughters or tradition. Should he let them choose their own husbands, however unorthodox those husbands may be, or should he honor his role as the patriarchal figure who decides what's best. You can guess which one wins out (it is a musical after all).
Topol previously played the character at the West End opening of "Fiddler on the Roof" back in 1967 and in the 1971 film version. He lends a certain gravitas to the role that makes him both endearing and a respected figure. Admittedly, at the ripe age of 73, his moves are not as energetic as they used to be and his voice is not as boisterous or strong, wavering at times. Yet he brings to the role experience, both from playing Tevye on and off for the last 40 years and from the wisdom of age. He's no longer playing Tevye, he is Tevye.
Tevye carries the entire weight of the musical and the story delves into his brain, and his conversations with God, as he tries to hold onto his familiar world of tradition, both in his home and in the village, despite being curious for what lies beyond. And we all have those moments, especially now with the health care debate, where we can either face the changes as they occur or we can hide within our houses hoping they go away.
particularly chilling segment was the Sabbath scene where multiple families in
the small town gather around the dinner table to honor the Sabbath, their faces
lit by candlelight. In that instance, everyone in the audience is connected in a
moment of peace before everything changes.
The production value is as good as can be expected from a venue such as OCPAC, with rotating sets, foldable houses, and realistic props. The choreography of director Sammy Dallas Bayes is traditional yet energetic and the chuckles never stop coming from the audience.
Yet the primary reason to see Fiddler on the Roof is Topol. This touring production is his last time playing the character so pay the money and see a Broadway veteran at work.