Apr

4

Tradition!: CMTS Presents “Fiddler on the Roof”

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At last night’s show of Fiddler on the Roof, the average age of the audience was significantly higher than any of the other shows Bwog has attended in the past. Producer Jonathan Jager shared that many families purchased blocks of 10 tickets to the show, explaining the surprising lack of college students. Among the few college students present, however, was Bwog’s very own Sean Zimmermann. Here, his review.

The Columbia Musical Theatre Society’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Rebecca Victor, is spectacular. The cast, the costumes, the lighting the music — all is of an unusually high caliber. Perhaps most impressive is the quality of the acting, which at last night’s performance was on peak and at a very professional level for a college production.

There are a few actors whose performances deserve special note. Tevye, portrayed by Eric Lawrence, spoke with a thick accent which perfectly fit his role; his character’s monologues, during which all other characters would freeze, were well-executed — as were the freezes themselves, which gave the monologues an almost dreamlike quality. Other members of Tevye’s family, such as his wife Golde (Kathryn Maslak) and his three eldest daughters Tzeitel (Becky Greenstein), Hodel (Rivka Friedlander), and Chava (Emily Buttner) were portrayed very believably, as were the young student Perchik (Michael Seaman) and the poor tailor Motel Kamzoil (Josh Warshawsky). Some of the actors in smaller roles also stood out: Elizabeth Varner deserves praise for her hilarious portrayal of the matchmaker Yente, as does Tyler Benedict for his almost-sympathetic portrayal of the town Constable, Ben Bardin for his elderly Rabbi, and Bethanie Mangigian for her screeching ghost of Fruma-Sarah.

Interactions between characters, especially between Tevye and his daughters, were strong as well. In one scene, father Tevye bids goodbye to Hodel, his daughter, who is leaving their small town to go to her husband, the idealistic Perchik, who has been arrested and taken to Siberia. Both Rivka’s song, “Far From the Home I Love” and Tevye’s prayer after she leaves, “look after her, and see that she dresses warm,” were deeply moving.

The cast’s musical numbers were very professional, but the pit band, which was placed on the minimalist stage behind the actors, is worthy of extra accolades. Not only was the music throughout the entire show excellent, but the conductor, Elizabeth Laberge, fell ill during the show to be replaced mid-act by trumpet player Paul Lerner, who took over without missing a beat. Another musician who figuratively took center stage was violinist Suzanne Davies, who plays for Tevye twice through the show.

This reviewer has one grievance: the degree of commitment to accents within the show was very inconsistent and jarring at times. Though Eric Lawrence’s heavy accent for Tevye made his character much better on a whole, it became very noticeable when he would sing with other members of the cast, who were not singing in the same accents. Other than this small but noticeable dissonance, however, the show was excellent from start to finish and I would thoroughly recommend that more college students (and not just family members) show up for tonight’s performance

Tickets for tonight’s 8:00 show at Roone are available at the TIC. Tickets are $5 with CUID, $10 for general admission, and $25 for VIP seating.

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32 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    wow this is the most glowing review i've ever ever ever read...

    • Anonymous

      I'd have to say that you are probably a dilettantish tool for even pretending to be able to know the cause of the audiences' reaction to the show (did you take a survey after? no. did the show receive a standing ovation? absolutely.); i'd have to say that you probably have "high school " perceptions of theater through and through if you think a roone show necessarily has to have set (who says??), and if you think that standing in lines can't be meaningful or purposeful (a "rule" which i'm sure you learned in...high school), and finally, i'd have to posit that you really don't know what you're talking about for saying that Tevye was imitating zero mostel, when in fact, he was channeling topol.
      i would agree that michael and emily gave amazing performances though -- a long with everyone else in the show. it was awesome!!!

      • Anonymous

        this was meant as a response to the "I'd" comment below

        • dilettantish tool  

          Goodness gracious. So everything critical I said was wrong but all the compliments were accurate? Well, I guess you're right. This show had absolutely no flaws and was perfect in every way!

          Oh wait, it wasn't. The show was entertaining; it was not good. The direction was absolutely atrocious, if present at all. There were a few good performances, but overall this was just not that spectacular a production.

  2. I'd  

    have to disagree. The show may have been entertaining, but it was not very good at all by Columbia standards. It really only received applause because of the audience's familiarity with Fiddler's well-known songs or familial relations to cast members. The extent of Tevye's acting was his Zero Mostel-impression accent (which, while impressive, became extremely awkward when no one else backed him up with their own dialects), there was absolutely no set (which for a Roone show is inexcusable), and the apparently non-existent direction far too often involved groups of 10 people standing in a straight line. This was a high school production through and through. I'd single out Michael Seaman and Emily Buttner for the two solid performances that actually made the night worthwhile. And that amazing music director who kept conducting even though she was sick--that is the peak of professionalism, so kudos to her.

    • Anonymous

      "there was absolutely no set (which for a Roone show is inexcusable)"
      this comment makes me think that a. you are not a very creative person and b. you some how know about the drama that occurred before the show -- if so, i would just like to say that it is a despicable move to bring up the the "set," that ultimately wasn't missed, to try and bring the show down in a public setting, just because you know something that everyone else doesn't. shame on you.

  3. Not an old person

    To everyone involved, the show was great! Especially musically. Congrats!

  4. Elizabeth

    is fantastic! I love her!

  5. junior, '11

    seeing it tonight, can't wait!

  6. yay rebecca!

    she did an amazing job!

  7. Rebecca

    thanks for the feed back and support! happy you all enjoyed the show!

  8. Haha  

    You know the Track button's back, right, sockpuppet?

  9. Anonymous  

    Actually the Track button isn't working for me...

  10. Rebecca

    ahah yes yes yess more than one person posting from the same computer -- i dont give a fuck! it's no secret that me and my family member are really into this show!!!!

  11. Anonymous  

    They pulled it off! Yay Fiddler Cast!

  12. Zomg:  

    While I gotta admit that there really didn't seem to be much directing involved in this show, there was some pretty sweet acting, singing, and dancing. Also, the minimalist design went pretty well with the show, I thought...?So I don't know why people are complaining about that.

    • Welcome

      People are complaining because this is Bwog. People are also complaining because although Bwog reviews are horribly inconsistent in their standards and Bwog comments are unfortunately a better barometer for general approval, though neither are accurate.

  13. Anonymous

    While I must extend kudos to all those involved in the production, I need to call bullshit on the bickering about Mostel v. Topol. As a native Yiddish speaker, I can assuredly say he emulated neither but rather almost wrecked the show with needless vocal buffoonery as well as mocked the heritage this show is meant to emulate in all its melodrama.

  14. Anonymous  

    some of the staging was deplorable. one of the actors was speaking with her head turned away from the audience for a good few minutes at a point. the sound crew was, in a word, lazy, they could not get any of the mics up or down as people entered - this resulted in not being able to hear many of the crucial lines. the set could have used a bit more supervision / an outside advisor - overall it was pretty JV. lighting was bland - probably largely due to the budget. lighting was also distracting in that none of the borders were trimmed low enough to hide the lights - not even for someone sitting in the back row.

    i loved the husband and the wife. though i must say, it was quite a long play where relatively little happened.

  15. loved it  

    singing and acting (and dancing!!) were amazing and it was obvious that the principle musicians and actors were invested in the success of this production. To those who stress set and nit picky details over the overall performance have too much shit up their ass. Try taking a dookie next time you go to the theatre so you can lighten up before hand. Loved it! Front row fo free, suck it!!

  16. Wow  

    Hated the directing, but the pit was amazing. To have a conductor leave the stage four times in a rehearsal to be ill, then come back and truck on, that's commitment. And the musicians deserve the highest praise! In several songs, it was clear that the singers had no sense of timing and tempos were all over the place. Kudos to the pit for putting up with all of this!

    • performance,  

      not rehearsal. As a friend of hers, I know she also had to leave the stage a few times in rehearsal as well, though.

    • to be fair to the singers  

      it's very difficult to cement tempos at the beginning of a song without being able to see the conductor. if columbia allowed the use of the pit that Roone already has, many of the tempo/entrance issues would probably have been mitigated. I'd have to agree, though, that the pit did an amazing job accounting for the various little errors of the performers. Also, can't knock the singers too much-many of them were fantastic.

      • Pit Lord  

        Lerner management is so lazy. Rather than take the precautions necessary for groups to use the pit, they would rather not allow us to utilize a resource we have available. Lerner is simply unfriendly to the performing arts.

  17. Anonymous

    The performance of Tevye from his expressiveness, never getting out of character for a second, his understanding of the role, his harmony in singing gave the audience a great entertainment experience and kept the current of the show electric. Hubble was expressive, sang beautifully and was convincing. Mottle understood the limitations of his character and did not try to be dynamic and pulled off being a nerdy, humble person with grace. The ensemble performed Anatefka with the somber expressions and pained voices that made the song real and moving. No set but the characters worked in synch to move the props in a way that did not disturb the ebb and flow...

  18. Anonymous  

    It was very apparent that the actors dedicated many hours to memorizing their lines and to working together in order to make this play the best it could possibly be. The whole cast clearly managed very well with what they were provided and what they had.
    Those who are criticizing the show could not have done it better, so there is no use in pointing out the flaws.



    Congratulations to the Fiddler cast!

  19. Arielle

    The only thing that came close to wrecking the show was the lack of accents from the rest of the performing cast, and even that didn't \wreck\ the show. The show was great- amazing even. It just would have been that much better if the entire cast had spoken in the accent that was used during that time.

  20. Anonymous

    To have seen Topol perform the role of Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, was to know how really talented Eric Lawrence is. Mr. Lawrence's accent could not have been more authentic and identifiable. He never broke character. His rendition of Tevye hit the mark so accurately, that with my eyes closed, it was hard to discern the difference between Topol's character of 1971 and Mr. Lawrence's 39 years later. It was as if I was listening to the voice I enjoyed so many years ago. I was so farclempt (chocked up) after the Saturday evening performance, that I rearranged my plans for Sunday evening, just to see it again, and relive the memory. As for the other actors, they were marvelous. Yes, a bit more of an Eastern European accent by them wouldn't have hurt, but in order to perform using an accent as well as this was executed, I would assume Mr. Lawrence has a think tank of foreign characters and accents at his fingertips. These students worked so hard and it was quite evident. To be students at an Ivy League University, some in a dual degree program with JTS, as well as members of other organizations, while memorizing lines, choreography, lyrics and music is beyond compare. That's more than a full plate, it's the entire kitchen sink. They are to be congratulated for a job not only well done, but executed with perfection each night.

    To the cast...just remember, you have now officially performed on Broadway....maybe uptown, but Broadway is Broadway.

    Congratulations to the entire cast and a special thanks to Mr. Lawrence, who's performance as Tevye was able to capture a part of my youth, and give it back to me for a few hours this past weekend.

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