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ArtisTree Presents a Lively Production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’



Saturday, February 07, 2015
Woodstock — In less capable hands — and feet, and voices — a production of Fiddler on the Roof could s truggle to achieve liftoff, or, at worst, stumble across the stage. The 1964 musical has so many moving parts — as many as 27 people dancing and/or singing.

In the care of the ArtisTree Theatre Company and director Jarvis Green, however, the venerable play mostly prances around Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre.

Serenaded by The Fiddler (Owen Kevra-Lenz, with sensitivity and uncanny timing) and the live orchestra of seven led by pianist and conductor Josh Smith, Tevye (Robert Summers) in one early scene pulls his milk-delivery cart onstage and laments to his God about shouldering the burden that his lame horse cannot, before launching into If I Were a Rich Man.

Over the next two hours, the rest of the cast, the crew and the musicians ably share the load, from the rousing tavern celebration (To Life) of Tevye’s agreement to marry the eldest of his five daughters to a 62-year-old butcher, through the poignant, closing strains of Anatevka, to which Tevye, his family and his Jewish neighbors trudge out of the only homes they’ve known, one step ahead of the Russian authorities.

Standouts in the supporting cast include Sharon resident John Marshall as Fyedka, the Russian gentile. On the way to stealing the heart of Tevye’s third daughter, Chaya (Shayna Schmidt), Marshall nearly steals To Life with his acrobatic dancing. Meanwhile, New York-based actor Brandon Peterson, as the radical student Perchick, wins over second daughter Hodel (Kelly Karcher) with his voice. (Fingers crossed that the technical team fixes the microphone glitch that plagued Perchick’s singing and dialogue in the second act of the preview on Thursday night.)

Karcher and Schmidt both shine with their clear voices, whether chafing against the arranged marriages that await them in Matchmaker, Matchmaker or fighting back tears and second thoughts as they prepare to leave home and hearth for the suitors of their own choosing in Act II. And as Motel, the poor, gawky tailor who marries Tevye’s eldest daughter Tzeitel (Irene Green), New York stage veteran Nick Orfanella slips into the role with the comfort of a well-made suit.

Summers — with more than 200 runs as Tevye under his belt, including the 2013 national tour of Fiddler — commands the stage more with humor and resignation than with the bluster into which some might lapse. As Tevye’s wife, Golde, Roxy York stands up, in stature and in voice, to the character, based on the short stories of Sholem Aleichem, whose opinion most of the community, from the innkeeper (Joe Ventricelli) to the gentile Russian constable (Benjamin Pauly), respects. Such is G olde’s gravitas that when she interrupts one of Tevye’s discussions with God, he quickly tells his deity, “I’ll talk with you later.”

Furthering the cause is the spartan set that Adrian Tans designed and master carpenter Jeff Levison executed in concert with technical director Dan Merlo, featuring wooden triangles and one rectangle suspended over the stage. With the cast nimbly taking turns moving furniture on and off the stage between scenes, the biggest triangle holds a parade of different props, including the sign at the Anatevka train station from which Hodel boards a train to Siberia to reunite with her imprisoned Perchick.

And at the end of the night, after the order expelling the Jews from Anatevka, Tevye bends his knees and bows his back one more time to grasp the handles of his still-horseless cart and straightens. The cart creaks with the first step of many away from the old ways, and west toward America and an uncertain future at the dawn of the 20th century. At a full-circle wave from Tevye, The Fiddler follows .

A rtisTree Theatre Company will stage Fiddler On the Roof at Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre tonight at 7:30, Sunday at 5 p.m., on Friday night and the night of Feb. 14 at 7:30, and Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. After this Sunday’s performance, the cast will answer questions from the audience. For tickets ($22) and more information, visit pentanglearts.org/fiddler-on-the-roof/ or call 802-457-3981.