Written by Patrick Chavis August 9, 2015
Family, tradition, and moral values –no matter what culture or religion you subscribe too –these things matter. They appear in the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, and in many more religious and cultural traditions all over the world. The stories may be different, but many of the lesson are very much the same. Aldergate Church in Tustin, California –a Methodist church by association — putting on the most famous Jewish musical of all time, demonstrates their belief in this very concept. Some may say it’s an odd choice, but Aldergate doesn’t think so.
A little history: Fiddler on the Roof was at one time the longest running show to hit Broadway for quite a while. Fiddler’s long reign on the great white only lasted until Grease came along. At the time Fiddler first came out, many people thought the production might be too Jewish for a mainstream audience and not Jewish enough for a Jewish one. Both were wrong –like any well written story —Fiddler straddled the line of being to appealing to all demographics while staying true to it’s Jewish roots. The musical is based on a story written in the 1800’s about a Jewish dairyman man named Tevye who has six troublesome daughters.
Fiddler on the Roof‘s plot doesn’t diverge much from the plot of its source material. Fiddler on the Roof is the story of Tevye, his wife and their (now) his five daughters survive and adapt to the changes occurring in their poor, Jewish community of Anatevka –a fictional town set somewhere in Russia. The story is told mostly from the perspective of Tevye –a poor dairy farmer who is forced to adapt to the rapid changes affecting his home, life, family, and of course, traditions.
The story is comical and always moving. It not only talks about the importance of tradition but shows the strength and beauty of culture in so many different ways. It is also very vocal about the restrictions and dogma that can come from rigid thinking. Most of the play deals with Tevye’s ability to accept the changes in his life even though they go against his belief.
|The central theme of Fiddler is that there are many things to follow and believe in, but overall, a belief in love conquers all of them.|
Youth performances are usually passed over as amateur. Justly so, since a lot of them are. Acting is a skill like any other. You hone, and if your doing it right, it gets better with time. Regardless of the usual gripes of accurate casting, watching a eighth grader play a Rabbi is quite funny.
The level of being present in their characters was surprisingly fluid throughout the entire night. The pairing of Ricardo Juarez (Tevye the Dairyman) and Maeve Foster (flawlessly playing his wife Golde) is essential to this story. Foster plays the part with the authentic pacing and temperament I would expect from her character. From my recollection, “Do You Love Me” was by far the best piece in the entire show. Both Juarez and Foster act and sing this song with such feeling. Juarez delivers a confident and light hearted performance of Tevye, which –at least from my perspective –makes his character a little more accessible to a younger audience. He’s pious for sure, but it’s with a sense of humor.
The daughters are played by Chava (Katy Denies), Hodel (Sydney Horner) Bielke (Ella Gibson) Tzeitel (Shelby Willingham) Shprintze (Kendal Stuckenberg). They’re are all fantastic, especially Horner. Horner is wonderful in every song she performs —toping it off near the end of the show with “Far From The Home.”
At points the cast does come off stiff, and pacing is a serious issue for certain characters. But overall, Aldergate’s rendition of Fiddler is an enjoyable night of theatre with hints of greatness sprinkled all over.