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Fit as a Fiddler at Little Theatre
Flashback to a time when traditions were sacred, children respected their parents and the care of the family was entrusted to God.
Flashback to pre-revolution Russia when a community of Jews was just beginning to be rudely awakened to the dangerous political stirrings that were going to affect their lives so dramatically.
This is the setting for Joseph Steins "Fiddler on the Roof." Little Theater of Alexandria has brought this beloved musical to their stage complete with old world Jewish accents, rousing traditional music and the allusive fiddler.
The story follows the life of Tevye, (Sal Buscema), a hardworking Jew who wants only to find good, and preferably wealthy, husbands for his five daughters. Buscema delivers a perfect accent and manner for the role. His deep, clear voice is ideal for the humble and soft-hearted peasant.
As Tevyes three oldest daughters make it clear to their father that they will marry for love and not money, he is torn between letting the traditions of his family and culture slip away and the happiness of his daughters.
When Tevye married his wife Golde, (Frieda Enoch), love was not an issue, it was just a "good match." It is only in the wake of his daughters concern with love that he wonders whether or not his wife actually loves him and so he asks her. In the song that ensues, "Do you love me?" Tevye does indeed find out that Golde loves him, after all, as she says in the song, "Would I have cleaned his house, cooked for him, raised his children and shared his bed for 25 years if I did not love him?"
The dreams Tevye had for his daughters crumble as their hearts are won by a poor man, a revolutionist and worst of all, a Gentile. Tevye learns how to adjust to the poor man and the revolutionist, but he draws the line at his daughter Chavaleh, Sasha Hennessy, marrying outside the faith. As he says to his wife, "Chavaleh is dead to us." It is not until the residents of the village of Anatevka are forced to evacuate that Tevye relents. His daughter comes to say good-bye and he allows himself to say "God be with you," before he leaves for America knowing he may not see her again.
The theme of change and tradition are prevalent in "Fiddler." Tevye has lived his life according to custom, the same way his forefathers lived and it is painful for him to watch his children deviate from tradition.
On a grander scheme, the nation is going through a period of dramatic change, turning on its people in the midst of revolution and forcing the Jews to leave the only homes they have ever known. On a personal and social level, Tevyes world is being turned upside down.
Through it all, Tevye keeps his faith. Even when he throws up his hands at the end of the song "If I Were a Rich Man," it is a gesture of trust in God. He may not have a lot of money, but he is aware of the blessings he does have.
The greatest blessing for Tevye are his daughters. There is a touching scene between Teyve and his daughter Hodel when they are saying their farewells at the train station because she is leaving home to be with her betrothed in the prison camps in Siberia. Teyve does not want to leave his daughter alone and although it breaks her heart to leave her family, she must go. Together they sing "Far from the Home I Love," a heart-wrenching ballad which demonstrates the difficulty and necessity of change.
Another example of the abandonment of tradition that the community of Anatevka goes through is at the wedding of Teyves oldest daughter Tzeitel, (Jill Vohr), and the tailor Motel, (Michael Prannikoff). At the reception, the young revolutionary student Perchik, (Vytas Vergeer), defies all tradition and dances with a woman and invites the other men to do the same. At first the community is scandalized but when even Tevye dances with his wife, everyone joins in the fun.
"Fiddler" is not without its comic moments either. Tevyes teasing comments toward Golde are always entertaining and it is amusing to see him throw up his arms in frustration toward the sky which is more a sign of faith than despair.
Especially humorous is the song "Matchmaker," where the three oldest daughters speculate on the horrible consequences of having to marry a man they have never met.
The show is an enjoyable journey through difficult, life-changing moments. With a wonderfully executed musical score and a vibrant cast exhibiting the love and fidelity of one family, Little Theatre of Alexandria upholds the classic tradition of "Fiddler on the Roof."
"Fiddler" plays through Aug. 15. For information call 703/683-0496.
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