THE BASICS: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, a touring production of the Broadway musical presented by Shea’s and Albert Nocciolino opened on October 30 and runs through November 4, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 & 8, Sun at 2 & 7. At Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 646 Main Street (1-800-745-3000). www.sheas.orgFamily friendly. Full service bar, souvenirs, snacks, the usual. Runtime, 2 hours, 50 minutes including one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: “Fiddler” is a touring revival of the multiple Tony Award winning 1964 musical based on “Tevye and his Daughters” and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. Tevye, the father of five daughters, keeps trying to maintain his Jewish traditions as modern outside influences exert themselves on the family through the actions of his strong-willed three older daughters. They reject the tradition of the matchmaker and wish to marry for love. While the eldest marries a tailor, the next marries a revolutionary and leaves for Siberia, and the third marries a gentile. With music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, set in a rustic village in Imperial Russia in 1905, it features such hits as “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” and “Sunrise, Sunset.”
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: With current news of the slaughter of eleven Jews in their synagogue in Pittsburgh and exaggerated claims of a “caravan” of migrants coming to America, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF could not bring a timelier message of love and tolerance. There were no overt messages from the stage; the musical was presented as is, which made the whole experience even more powerful.
The musical was presented as is, which made the whole experience even more powerful.
The set and the costumes worked well together to portray the lives of impoverished villagers, but it’s not all drab shades of brown, especially in the entertaining “Tevye’s Dream” sequence, which, while not quite as over-the-top as the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” from THE BOOK OF MORMON, was right up there in that league.
And the dancing, especially by the young men, must be seen. They jump, they kick, they slide, they look so agile. Of course, in the movie you get dancing, but movies can edit and use camera angles for the illusion of dancing, so it’s not quite as impressive. If you ever needed a reason to go to live performances instead of to the movies, FIDDLER is that reason. There’s just something about real people on stage that grabs you the way the silver screen cannot.
When I was a music host on WNED, I used to play a fair amount of klezmer music on the air, and I can tell you that this pit orchestra measures up, especially with fiddler Ionut Cosarca and clarinetist Andrew Clark.
Best of all, we have a local star on stage, Olivia Gjurich, the daughter of Buffalo favorite actors Greg and Mary Gjurich.
Best of all, we have a local star on stage, Olivia Gjurich, the daughter of Buffalo favorite actors Greg and Mary Gjurich. Olivia plays Fruma-Sarah which is the central character in what I’ll call “the spooky Jewish hell dream” sequence and a villager the rest of the time. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
And, finally, kudos to the audience. Sometimes Shea’s audiences just seem reluctant to laugh or get into the show. Within seconds of the downbeat, you could feel the energy in the house. It was special. I hope that keeps up for the entire run.
UP NEXT: THREE MUSKETEERS (November 1-18) at Shea’s 710 Theatre from the “All for One” consortium of five local theaters. A DRAG QUEEN CHRISTMAS (where the stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race ring in the holidays) one night only, Saturday, November 17 at 8:00 at Shea’s 710 Theatre, and HAMILTON on the main stage of Shea’s, running November 20 through December 9.
And, make a note of three “Special Engagements” in 2019 with a 3-show package available, featuring CATS, RENT, and THE BOOK OF MORMON.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!