Arts & Leisure

“Fiddler” is a familial masterpiece

BRADLEY MILLER stars as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Westminster Community Playhouse (Photo by Zach Mackenzie).

By Thom deMartino

“…On the other hand…”

A troubled village milkman muses, as he weighs the value of love against tradition. But when you’re living on the razor’s edge, balancing as precariously as a fiddler upon a roof, what else is there to do but make the best of it?

The first theatrical offering of the Westminister Community Playhouse in the New Year has arrived, and it’s a lively one: the beloved musical “Fiddler On the Roof.” Bradley Miller stars as Tevye, the local milkman in a small Russian village at the turn of the 20th century, whose sharp-tongued wife Golde (Liza A. Rios Proprofsky) and he are blessed — perhaps a bit begrudgingly —with five daughters. Their eldest three are of a marriageable age, to the delight of the local matchmaker and busybody, Yente (Dawn Vasco), who sets about to find them husbands — much to the chagrin of the young women, who realize they would rather make their own choices.

It is a village deeply steeped in Hebrew tradition, and the circumspect Tevye expects his children to abide by his edicts — including his giving permission to the much older (and well-off) widowed butcher of the town, Lazar-Wolf (Eric Schiffer) to marry his eldest daughter Tzeitle (Noelle LeBlanc.)

“I always wanted a son…” says the father, reflecting on his decision. “…one a little younger than myself…” he quips.

However, unbeknownst to him, his eldest seeks to wed her childhood friend and true love Motel (Seth Weiner), a local tailor (of meager means.)

Both Tevye and Golde only want the best for their children, hoping to marry them out of poverty and into wealthy households, so that they may want for nothing. But the heart wants what the heart wants — challenging the father to weigh his ancestral traditions, so dearly and deeply held, against the new and revolutionary ideas arising from the idealists and dreamers: such as the handsome college-educated newcomer to the town, Perchik (Tom Patrick Proprofsky) and the determined young Fyedka (Mason Meskell) who is himself neither of the tribes of Israel, or the Jewish faith.

At the same time as these cultural challenges arise to vex Tevye and his family, darker clouds are looming for them… and the rest of the town.  After hearing of how the Jewish families of another local settlement were driven out by the forces of the Tsar, he learns from the local Constable (Ivar Vasco) how some kind of example must be made in their own village, to stave off a similar purge.

It seems there’s no respite for the devout man, as he makes his way through his daily troubles, hoping for a sign from above — of deliverance, of better things to come…

The Patricia Miller-directed production of “Fiddler” at WCP is an ambitious one: not only for the large cast involved, but the practicality of staging it within the smaller, intimate venue of the playhouse itself — yet it works, and works well.

While the audience might initially be overwhelmed by the number of cast members and trying to keep the names straight, by the end of the production they are as familiar to you as your own family. The choreography of the show is dazzling as well, maximizing the space upon the stage with seemingly traditional dances, from folk to balletic — and choreographed by the lead himself, Bradley Miller.

Though much of the production paints a moving portrait of a family in turmoil, struggling with cultural forces beyond themselves, there is an undeniable joy in this production, a celebration of life and of faith — with songs such as “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “Do You Love Me” and “Sunrise, Sunset” performed with such verve, such reverence and beauty, as to raise even the most sullen heart and bring a tear to the eye. Much of this is thanks to the beautiful musical accompaniment of Coryn Topham on clarinet, and the marvelous violin work of Evan Hoffman Jastermsky.

One must note the incredible vocal work from the entire cast, including Matt Koutrouis as the Rabbi, and LeBlanc, Brittani Prenger and and Emily Turner as Tevye’s eldest three daughters — but it’s particularly Millar that shines as he owns the spotlight, and looms large in this sumptuous role.

It’s only the beginning of 2018, and off to a fabulous start with Westminister Community Playhouse’s “Fiddler On the Roof”: filled with laughter and sorrow, tradition and change — and most of all, family, and the love that binds it all.

“Fiddler On the Roof.” Bradley Miller, Liza A Rios Proprofsky and Tom Patrick Proprofsky star in this celebration of family and tradition, in revolutionary times. Playing through January 28 at at the Westminister Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St, Westminster, CA 92683, from Oct. 7-23: ticketing information available online at http://www.wctstage.org, or call 714-893-8626. Appropriate for all ages.

 

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