A Parent’s Review: Fiddler on the Roof at Village Theatre
From the first twinkle in Tevye’s eye as he sings “Tradition” to the last plaintive yet joyful notes of the fiddler as Tevye and his family leave their village, Fiddler on the Roof at the Village Theatre is a joy to watch and hear.
This 1964 Broadway musical never becomes dated as it probes the ageless themes of young people’s dreams bumping up against parents’ mores and finding a way to stand tall and sing in the face of adversity.
If you go with your children, give them a little background beforehand, as there isn’t any in the Village Theatre program. Fiddler on the Roof takes place in one of many little Jewish villages in Russia in 1905. The king of Russia, called the Tsar, is being opposed by revolutionaries who want to overthrow him.
As often happens throughout history, he decides that the Jewish people are at fault and he signs an edict to have them evicted from their villages. On the family level, the three oldest daughters of Tevye, the village milkman, want to choose their own husbands instead of the traditional way of having a matchmaker help their parents make the choice.
Village Theatre, as usual, stages this musical beautifully. Notice first the brilliant backdrop of surrealistic paintings, reproductions of the works of Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall. (Talk to your kids about surrealism, which means “beyond reality” – taking real things and adding imagination to them or putting odd objects together, such as flying unicorns and fiddling mermaids.)
With a few deft strokes we are then transported to a poor village, Tevye’s humble home, a train station and the barren countryside. Most enchanting is the visual manifestation of Tevye’s “dream” in which the ghosts of his wife’s grandmother and the village shrew rise up to oppose the arranged marriage of the couple’s eldest daughter. It’s funny and frightening at the same time.
Fiddler on the Roof rises or falls on the performance of Tevye, and you couldn’t find a better one than Eric Polani Jensen’s in the Village production. He is humorous, thoughtful, joyous, anguished and perfectly at home chatting with God – and that voice! Bobbi Kotula as his wife, Golde, and Laura Kenny as the matchmaker Yente are also outstanding. The younger characters are not as clearly individualized, but all of the voices are beautiful and the choreography dazzling.
So how old should your child be to enjoy this performance?
This is a difficult question to answer – you know your child best. Length is probably the biggest factor: three hours, including a 15-minute intermission. That may be too long for many children, despite the fact that the plot moves along quickly and there are few long “boring” scenes. The musical has more catchy tunes than most, including “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Matchmaker,” “To Life” and “Sunrise, Sunset.” As far as appropriateness of material, it’s fine for most children 6 and older. The only potentially difficult part would be the appearance of the soldiers smashing up the place at the end of the wedding feast – and it’s handled very lightly here.
If your children have a long enough attention span, I recommend this Fiddler as an alternative to the usual holiday fare, especially if your family, like Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, gets tired of “all that ding-dong” at Christmastime.
If You Go...
When: Nov. 7-Dec. 30 in Issaquah: Wednesday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; plus two Tuesdays (Dec. 4 and 11), 7:30 p.m. Jan 4-27 in Everett: Wednesday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Where: Francis C. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah. Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett.
Contact: 425-392-2202 (Issaquah); 425-257-8600 (Everett); www.villagetheatre.org.