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Theater Review: “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Westchester Playhouse

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Tevye considers breaking tradition and allowing Motel to marry his daughter, Tzeitel. Left to right: Nathan Fleischer, Kelsey Nisbett, and Bradley Miller. PHOTO COURTESY SHARI BARRETT

Tevye considers breaking tradition and allowing Motel to marry his daughter, Tzeitel. Left to right: Nathan Fleischer, Kelsey Nisbett, and Bradley Miller.

Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!  

The tradition of Kentwood Player’s fabulous performances continues this month with “Fiddler on the Roof,” a musical that emphasizes the importance of keeping certain traditions while breaking others. Tevya, a milkman, wallows in his fiscal scarcity, but appreciates his family’s abundance of love.

The show begins with an astounding rendition of “Tradition.” Nearly the entire cast participates in singing this tune, accompany it with synchronized dancing. There are youthful faces in the myriad of dancers, all of whom are on tempo with their evidently well-rehearsed moves. Even the Fiddler, played by Paul Callendar-Clewett, is solely a middle school student, but he plays his fiddle with passion and he never misses a note.

As the story progresses, other characters are revealed, including the Yente, the matchmaker, who is played by Ria Parody Erlich. She is deceptively nice which adds to her humor amongst her authentic Jewish persona. The story follows the Yente trying to set up the milkman’s daughters with other men.

The Yente doth protest too much, however, and it makes Tzeitel, (Kelsey Nisbett), Hodel (Carly Linehan), and Chava (Jessica D. Stone) break out into song as they yearn for a husband, but only a husband that has not been arranged for them. All of their voices harmonize beautifully and their solo performances are superb. Linehan, for example has a marvelous Adele-like spark to her voice that makes it sound like an angel is singing to the audience.

Meanwhile, as all three girls defy tradition and follow their hearts, the importance of family is expressed through the milkman’s attempts to accept his daughters’ poor or out-of-faith husbands. These loving moments also catalyze some instances of humor, especially when the milkman, or Tevya (Bradley Miller), has to reveal to his wife that his girls are going against their religion by marrying their lovers. These scenes show that even in the beginning of the twentieth century, in a village that’s extremely traditional, a husband will stand to be the head of the family, but the wife will be the neck and the true authority of her family.

Despite his final acknowledgement of his daughters’ marriages, Tevya still has to deal with some sentimental aspects, especially when he begins to think he is going against his religion. Tevya nearly tears up a few times, which reveals the depth and reach of Miller’s acting. Likewise, Chava, one of Tevya’s daughters, and her eventual husband, Fyedka (Christopher Stefanic), have a secret affair and their evident affection towards one another is touching.

As for the set, it is, as always with Kentwood Players, is well made and projects a feel for the rustic and rigidly run era and the village in which the play occurs. It also contributes towards the audience’s emotional rollercoaster as they travel from a happy wedding to a haunted bedroom and more. The variation of the band supplies the dismal or upbeat mood as well.

In the performance I attended there were a few instances of missed notes, awkward timings, and excessively high-pitched voices, but for the most part, the show exhibited high-quality professionalism and authenticity. The actors perform well, the songs are catchy, the set is wonderful, and the story is didactic and comical. “Fiddler on the Roof” is a difficult play to perform badly, but it is equally as difficult to perform well. Nonetheless, the Kentwood Players’ cast overcomes this feat.


If you go:

The Kentwood Players present

“Fiddler on the Roof”

Westchester Playhouse

8301 Hindry Ave., Westchester

Performances, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Closes April 19

Tickets, $23, less $2 seniors, students, servicemen and metro riders

(310) 645-5156 or go to kentwoodplayers.org


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