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Fiddler on the Roof at Prana Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at Holliston Middle School

by Ceci LeBeau
May 8, 2018

Fiddler on the Roof at Prana Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at 3 PMHolliston Middle School.  Tickets at pranacenter.com

Holliston 7th grader Jason Stokes in the lead role of Tevye

This weekend a wonderful family treat is on tap at Prana Productions here in Holliston. Fifty to sixty teen and child actors are putting on the perennial favorite, Fiddler on the Roof. Set in Tzarist Russia, it tells the story of a Jewish community struggling to hold on to their traditions as the shadow of pograms threaten their very way of life. Jason Stokes, as Tevya, takes God to task for making his horse lame on the Sabbath. A poor dairyman, Tevya none the less fantasizes about what life could be if only he were a rich man, with so many staircases n his house there’d be one leading nowhere just for show. Jason’s rollicking view of how each person’s role, young or old, is sung with conviction in the powerful full cast opening scene.

Golda, his wife, can match his every mood, from bellicose to deeply reverential. Grace Kasten has a lovely voice, and throws her considerable talents into praying for rich, well off husbands from their small community to come along and marry their five daughters. Alas, this is not to be, and the crux of the play follows the love interests of their first three daughters, who break every tradition. Tzeitel, (Abby Rachlin) has known the tailor Motel (Hannah O’Grady) all her life. The two have made each other a pledge and are heartbroken when Tevya agrees to let Lazar Wolfe, the butcher (Riley Greendale) marry Tzeitel instead. Tzeitel convincingly begs her father to reconsider, and the first tradition crumbles. Motel has finally learned to stand up for himself, claiming that even a poor tailor deserves some happiness.

As Tzeitel  warns her younger sisters in jest of whom the matchmaker Yente (a hilarious and marvelously easy to hear Karina Brown) may bring, Hodel (Olivia Gallerani) and Chava (Nora Keavany) reveal their own clear, moving voices. Hodel is taken with the new tutor Perchik (Jason Huckins,) who proclaims that money is the world’s curse, and never to trust an employer. A radical! Meanwhile, in a song immortalized as a wedding standard even now in 2018, Tevya and Golde lead the whole company in the sweetly nostalgic Sunrise, Sunset as Tzeitel and Motel marry.

The costumes alone are worth the price of admission. The exquisite white wedding dress and veil that Tzeitel comes down the aisle in looks straight out of a Broadway designer’s closet. All boys and men wear dark clothes, vests, leather boots or shoes, caps and prayer shawls and the girls and women uniformly wear muslin dresses or blouses and skirts, white aprons and kerchiefs from the farming and working world of the early 1900s. The rabbi, the constable and the Russian soldiers are turned out true to form, and the sets make the village believable.

In another blow to tradition, Hodel and Perchik don’t beg or even ask for Tevye’s permission to marry. Perchik is sent to Siberia for being a revolutionary, and Hodel shocks Tevye by insisting she will gladly follow him to that barren wasteland and marry him there.

All this change leads Golde and Tevye to admit how frightened they both were approaching their own arranged marriage, and sing of how they managed anyway in the combative but resigned and happy Do You Love Me? Part of the humor in the play derives from how the bellowing Tevye is so scared of telling Golde the truth. Much of the rest comes from his ongoing conversation with God, such as reflecting that Tzeitel and Motel are so happy they don’t know how miserable they are, and when asking God for a sewing machine “As the Good Book says... but why should I tell you what the Good Book says?” In the soaring Far From the Home I Love, Hodel raises her lovely voice to sing of how wrenching it is to leave everything she has ever known to follow a man.

In the final blow, Chava meets a Russian soldier (Fyedka, played by Emma Reardon) who treats her kindly and secretly exchanges books with him. This Tevye cannot accept under any terms. The senseless cruelty of the Russian soldiers who wantonly smashed Tzeitel and Motel’s wedding cannot be forgotten. When Golde learns they have secretly gone off to be married, she weeps. Tevye brutishly tells her Chava is dead to them now, and to go home, because they still have other children, Shprintze (Mia McGann) and Bielke (Kaelyn Rickman.)

A heartless edict from the authorities then informs them that all the Jews must leave their village within three days. In a scene reminiscent of thousands of years of persecution, all those in Anatevka resignedly pack up and prepare to be forced out yet again. An actual violin player, Meredith Reynolds, (the Fiddler) plays the bittersweet anthem as the cast slowly but methodically forms a line to leave Anatevka. In the end, Tevye is willing to add a gruff “God be with you” to his dear daughter Chava.

The multi-talented Roberta Weiner and Joanne Hines have put together another show to make you want to stand and cheer. In Tokyo, the Japanese actor who played Tevye once said, “We know why it is a success here, but how is it they liked it in America?” Don’t miss the chance to see this universally appealing show Thursday at 6pm, Friday at 7pm, and Saturday at 3pm.

Ceci LeBeau

 

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Comments (1)

Thanks for the wonderful review, Ceci! And the Holliston Reporter for all your support of local theatre!

- Roberta Weiner | 5/12/18 6:35 AM

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