Talented actors make ‘Fiddler’ believable

Masquers Theatre Company play now on stage at FLHS

If the reason you go to the theatre is to get lost in someone else’s story for an hour or two, the characters have to be believable.

In the Masquers Theatre Company presentation of “Fiddler on the Roof,” the main characters are easy to believe.

Paul Brown and Lori Jo Scherb are well matched as the parents of five daughters in the Russian village of Anatevka. (Photo submitted.)

Paul Brown as Tevye gets it right:  the speaking, the singing, the jokes, the conversations with God. When he sings, his phrasing is so good it’s like talking, but with music.

In the entire show Brown never drops his Russian Jew accent, and his “oy” sigh communicates much with one syllable.

Lori Jo Scherb as Golde is a good match for Brown’s Tevye. She can do crabby, especially at the beginning, and it’s clear why Tevye is a little afraid of his wife.  When Golde tells her daughter, “When I want you to know, I’ll tell you,” you know the conversation is over.

Toward the end we see her caring side, and her singing is excellent throughout.  In the “Sunrise, Sunset” wedding duet with Brown, it’s clear why she was cast as Golde.

The actors wear microphones, and the sound system is excellent, so the audience can hear every word.  At the Sunday matinee on July 8 there were almost no audio glitches.

Musical Highlights

Stephanie Johnson, Rebeca Ratté, and Jillian Scherb, as Hodel, Tzeitel, and Chava, sing about the tradition of arranged marriages. (Photo submitted.)

Musical highlights include the trio of Tevye and Golde’s three eldest daughters, Rebecca Ratté as Tzeitel, Steph Johnson as Hodel, and Jillian Scherb as Chava singing “Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match.”

Bill Roman plays the butcher, Lazar Wolf. When Tevye thinks Wolf wants his cow, but Wolf actually is talking about Tevye’s daughter Tzeitel, the audience has a good laugh even though most have probably seen it before. And the scene ends with the men singing “To Life/L’Chaim,” another musical highlight.

Major comic relief is provided whenever Judy Marleau as Yente, the Matchmaker, is on stage. The rumor scene she starts is quite well done.

The three young men who play suitors of Tevye’s daughters add much to the performance.  Nick Zuiker plays the tailor, Motel    Kamzoil. Motel is so afraid to ask Tevye for Tzeitel’s hand that you can almost see his tail tucked between his legs.

Zuiker’s facial expressions and body language, combined with good singing, make for an upbeat performance. (Perhaps, being a tailor, he could have a better-fitting pair of pants.)

Paul Ratté plays Perchik, the rebel student who loves Hodel. His passion for the cause is contagious, and he sings well, too.

Zach Marleau is very credible as Fyeda, the Catholic boy who convinces book-loving Chava to marry outside the faith.

There isn’t enough time to get to know most of the characters, and the romances seem a little pat, but several times in Act Two the audience is brought to tears by touching scenes about loss of home and loss of family.

Other Points

In general the singing is consistently good, with few weak spots. The dancing adds excitement.

Set design is very intelligent. Including intermission, the show lasts three hours, but very little of this time is spent waiting for scene changes.

Set designer Cindy Freet uses three rustic wooden buildings for all scenes. The center building changes from house exterior to interior with a single turn of the middle panel. The other two buildings are open and make great stages for crowd scenes.

Additional props, such as Tevye’s cart and Golde’s table, are quickly carried in while the pit orchestra plays.

Lighting is also effective. Several times the action pauses while Tevye thinks about his next step. This is handled by having all other actors freeze in place while a single light shines on Tevye.

It would be a mistake not to mention Tasha Montzka, the fiddler on the roof.  This young girl, with her painted mustache, does a fine job in an important role.

A live pit orchestra adds so much to a musical.  The Fiddler orchestra has some nice moments leading into the songs, and they successfully stay below the singers, accompanying without overwhelming. Some instruments might try entering more assertively and ending more firmly.

A final note: In total the 53 cast members, 17 musicians, and 17 staff/crew members outnumbered the 80 or so in the audience at the Sunday matinee July 8.

Artistic Director Janice Murphy Roman said the original Masquers Theatre production 36 years ago was Fiddler on the Roof. Whether you saw that one or not, you should come to this.

Show Times

This week, July 13-15, the show will run Friday through Sunday.  The next two weeks, July 19-22 and 26-29, a Thursday show will be added.

All Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening shows start at 7 p.m.  Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m.

General admission tickets cost $16 for adults, $13 for students and seniors 60 and older, and $10 for children 5 and younger.

For reserved tickets, adults, seniors, and students add $2 to these prices.  Reserved tickets for young children are $10, the same as general admission tickets.

For reservations call 651-464-5823 or visit www.masquerstheatre.org.