“Fiddler on the Roof” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – May 25, 2024


“Fiddler on the Roof”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

“Fiddler on the Roof” was born in 1964 with Jerome Robbins expert staging that made it a definitive musical.  It has maintained its greatness because the show’s message about universal acceptance and the dread of mindless discrimination are timeless.  It is good to have this remarkable show back in a stellar The Phoenix Theatre Company (TPTC) rendition.

The story, set in Anatevka, Russia circa 1905, explores this largely Jewish town in the context of the coming Russian revolution.  The musical looks at the town’s religious faith and cultural traditions.  It concludes with Anatevka’s dwellers beginning their pilgrimage to various places throughout the world where they can acknowledge their beliefs.  The changes to the town’s inhabitants are universal with particular contemporary relevance as various countries are plagued with intolerance and wars that threaten people’s existence.

In this exemplary and jewel-like TPTC production, it is a treasure for those already familiar with it to revisit the musical and it is stupendous for those who haven’t previously experienced its magic to witness the show in such a winsome production.  The musical speaks to those in Ukraine and other places where war plagues citizen’s rights to remember their history.

Director/choreographer Stas′ Kmiec′ has staged the show many times and he employs many of Robbins’ brilliant staging techniques.  The original production was presented on a turntable which allowed Robbins to use circular staging to remind viewers that we trudge through life using established ways to complete daily necessities.  The TPTC staging doesn’t use a turntable but Kmiec′ utilizes Robbins’ motion to replicate the original staging innovation.

The superlative cast crafts individually complex characters.  This factor is most notable in Scott Davidson’s sensitive but wisely compromising Tevye, the town’s dairyman, with his five daughters and domineering wife, Golde.  His daughters push Tevye’s interpretation of norms.

The staging moves with alacrity, singing is beautiful, the characterizations are definitive, the sets portray the barren town, the costumes instill the locale’s poverty, and the dances typify long held beliefs. The orchestra plays Jerry Bock’s memorable score to perfection.

Standout cast members include Nick Barakos’ initially shy Motel, the tailor, who grows to take on Tevye’s dominance.  Lori Wilner’s pesky control as the town’s matchmaker, Yente, graphically reveals challenges to dated traditions.  Jodie Weiss’ Golde softens as she realizes the importance of social evolution.  But there isn’t a weak performance in the perfect production.

TPTC’s “Fiddler on the Roof” is a musical triumph, exquisitely staged and performed, with a remarkable score, and a refreshing reminder that time-honored traditions can change with thoughtful debate.  It continues through July 7.  To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A