REVIEW: FIDDLER Brings the Roof Down! Seriously, Someone Must Have Cut Corners on Roof Construction
by Corey Pajka.
Hartford, CT - Hartford Theatrical’s production of Fiddler on the Roof opened with a bang of the worst kind when the title character fell through the title object in the opening number “Tradition.” It cast a pall over an otherwise inventive, visually arresting production of this classic musical. Risk-taking is laudable, provided it isn’t the kind that threatens bodily harm, and what else can a set piece made out of discarded pieces of cardboard Chewy boxes portend?
Directed by Connecticut mainstay Quentin Ford, this Fiddler is rendered with minimalist flair, relying on stark lighting and sound, and the home of Tevye’s family as the only set piece. It’s a choice that could alienate purists who didn’t take to Daniel Fish’s production of Oklahoma!, but pays off handsomely here. Save, of course, for that cardboard catastrophe that might very well have flattened the character tacitly driving the entire thing.
Seriously, Mr. Ford, were you trying to do to him what Lars Von Trier did to Bjork in Dancer in the Dark?
Cast to perfection, the show is anchored by Rashid Abbas as Tevye, and features winning turns from Caitlin Meyer as Golde, Arik Mayer as Perchik, and of course, Malcolm Carter as The Fiddler - whose courage in continuing after that near-fatal fall garnered raucous applause from the audience while a trail of blood marked his every movement. It’s a “Miracle of Miracles” that the bottle dancers on stilts didn’t slip. No one would yell “mazeltov” at that kind of glass breaking at a wedding.
Hartford Theatrical’s bare bones presentation lends itself well to Fiddler’s somber moments. Too often categorized as a feel-good show, Tevye’s monologues to God, and his solo “Little Bird (Chavelah)” are particularly moving. Even the comedy relief number “The Rumor/I Just Heard” hits an unsettling note, or maybe that’s the sound an actor passing out from massive hemorrhaging makes when they fall headlong into the orchestra pit.
This version of Fiddler strikes a chord with the audience and will stay with them long afterwards. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd, or an unstained costume piece on the stage by the time Tevye and his family walked off into the sunset.
Still, if Mr. Ford hopes to take this show on the road, he’ll need to be a bit more mindful of the literal nuts and bolts of stagecraft. Hire a carpenter! The song is called “To Life,” not “To Physical Therapy With a Shaky Union Medical Plan and No Way to Work to Earn it in the First Place!”
Anyway, “L’Chaim,” and for those who observe, please say a “Sabbath Prayer” for Malcolm Carter as he lies in intensive care.