Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

“Fiddler on the Roof” balances well at Candlelight Pavilion

Randy Hilton is Tevye in The Candlelight Pavilion "Fiddler on the Roof"

It has happened more than once. A Broadway show becomes a genuine hit, original in concept and musically compelling. Then it becomes an icon. Then it begins to look tired. Everyone has memorized the thing, the freshness vanishes and gradually it all becomes a giant cliche. Only with the passage of time, and silence, can one go back to looking at it as the stimulating show which first brought it to fame.

This would be a fine description of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which went from Tony-winning original to impressive film, to a seemingly never ending national tour touted locally as being a cultural imperative, to “Sunrise, Sunset” as the Muzak on department store elevators. Then silence, and distance, and now, locally, The Candlelight Pavilion’s revival. There, more than once, one heard surprise: “Wow, this show’s music is really beautiful,” and other comments confirming it as a classic.

And this production really is, for the most part, good enough to warrant such revelation. The cast is strong, the voices solid, and the feel of the thing very genuine. If you like the people onstage, you get connected. Certainly, it proves a great way to introduce children to both the charm of musical theater and evocative storytelling.

Randy Hilton leads the cast as Tevye, the dairyman, philosopher, dreamer and realist. He brings a physicality to the man’s pride, his patient sense of humor, and his tendency to lead with his heart before his head. He sings with conviction and warmth, and in all ways leads this cast in a show which has him onstage virtually all of the time.

Jenny Wentworth plays Golde, his wife. She has the attitude and energy down, though her singing is a bit edgy – something which stands out on the more melodic numbers. Blair Hollingsworth, Joanna Holliman and Kristina Brown make attractive work of Tevye’s elder daughters, with Holliman giving a particularly lovely version of my favorite song from the show, “Far From the Home I Love.” Scott Robinson does a lovely job as the geeky tailor, Edward Chamberlain comes off as a modified, gentle radical as the student Perchik. Jarred Barnard, as the Russian Christian interested in one of Tevye’s daughters, comes off as gentle and intellectual. It all works.

Director Chuck Ketter has a real feel for this piece, and gives it the sense of unity and place which are absolute essentials in making this work. Everyone must have a sense of character, to the smallest child. Considering the small stage and consequently small supporting cast, choreographer John Vaughan makes very attractive work of the more famous dance moments, from “Tradition,” to the bottle dance at the wedding, to the impressive kicks of celebratory Russians. Overall, movement throughout has an authentic feel.

If there is a down side to this production, and in this theater it is unavoidable, it is that the orchestral accompaniment is recorded. Unlike many Broadway musicals, the songs of “Fiddler on the Roof” are often conversational. They are quite literally talking set to music. To be forced to follow a prerecorded, standardized pacing dilutes the chance for personal expression, for playing off the other, or for responding to the mood created by a particular night’s audience in ways which stand out more forcefully because of this particular musical style.

Still, taken all in all, this comparatively small theater production of “Fiddler on the Roof” offers a chance to rediscover the charm of what truly is a classic American musical. And yes, despite the past hype, it really is a great introduction to the cultural history preserved so well by our immigrant Yiddish-speaking storytellers. Oh, yes.

What: “Fiddler on the Roof” When: Through February 26, meals begin at 6 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees Where: The Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd in Claremont How Much: $48 – $68, meal inclusive Info: (909) 626-1254 ext. 1 or http://www.candlelightpavilion.com

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