Who could be ambitious enough — and courageous enough — to mount a full-scale production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in a venue of limited dimension such as the Westminster Community Playhouse?
The Millers, that’s who. Director Patricia Miller and her husband, Bradley, who tackles not only the key role of Tevye but the intricate choreography as well, have used the relatively small horseshoe stage to their advantage, bringing an oft-overlooked dimension of intimacy to the 50-year-old musical from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.
The tightly knit Jewish community of Anatevka, an obscure village in Imperial Russia, spills out across the Westminster stage, coming from all four offstage directions in rousing harmony in this impressive and inspiring production. And it’s all there, the only apparent casualties being two of the three bottles in the Russian dance number.
Tradition, under which every villager knows his or her place, comes under a frontal assault in “Fiddler” as Tevye strives vainly to maintain control of his own household while the three eldest of his five daughters follow their own hearts. The downsized performing atmosphere renders these confrontations all the more poignant.
Bradley Miller is a dominant, robust Tevye, eschewing some of the role’s easy laugh lines to firmly establish his conflicted character. Whether speaking or singing, his voice carries enormous weight and sets the tone for the show.
As his long-suffering but loving wife, Liza A. Rios Proprofsky provides a heavy dose of pragmatic reality. Her “Do You Love Me?” duet with Miller is particularly moving.
Noelle LeBlanc enacts the oldest daughter, Tzeitel, with a measured attitude of balance between Papa’s feelings and her own. Her young swain, Motel the tailor, is enthusiastically rendered by Seth Weiner.
The standout supporting performance is delivered by Tom Patrick Proprofsky as the firebrand teacher Perchik, who brings knowledge — and, incidentally, love — to Tevye’s second-oldest girl, Hodel, splendidly played by Brittani Prenger. Her aching solo, “Far From the Home I Love,” is a highlight of the show. The third romance, a deal breaker for Tevye, is strongly interpreted by Emily Turner as Chava and Mason Meskell as the non-Jewish Fyedka. Dawn Vasco has some nice, lighter moments as the village matchmaker.
Also impressive in the Westminster company are Eric Schiffer as Lazar Wolf, the older butcher who covets Tzeitel; Peggy Schiffer as the ghost of the girls’ grandmother; Ivar Vasco as the gruff constable and, especially, Diana Catsoulas as Lazar’s long-dead first wife who dominates the nightmare sequence.
Under Bill Wolfe’s spirited musical direction, and Evan Hoffman Jastermsky wordlessly enacting the title role, “Fiddler on the Roof” is a richly rewarding experience. It’s a spirited revival at the Westminster Community Playhouse.
If You Go
What: “Fiddler on the Roof”
When: Till Jan. 28; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: Westminster Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St.
Cost: $13 to $25
Information: (714) 893-8626 or wcpstage.com.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater.
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