Tradition, zest for life, comedy, and sadness all overtook the stage at Westfield High School’s production of "Fiddler on the Roof." The musical was inspired by the stories of Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem and first hit the stage in 1964. Fiddler contains some of the most popular songs in musical history, has won nine Tony Awards, and was one of the longest running shows on Broadway.
The story focuses on a tightly knit Jewish community in Russia. Many of the elders cling to ancient religious traditions, while the younger generation is yearning for less tradition and more freedom. The plot centers on Tevye, a dairyman, and his family of five daughters. Tevye is continually badgered by his daughters’ insistence on marrying men he doesn’t approve of, while the town’s matchmaker tries to arrange the girls’ marriages with more practical men. At the same time, the Russians are trying to push the Jewish populations out of their beloved homelands.
Barry Armbruster as Tevye was magnificent. His Jewish passion, outstanding charisma, exaggerated facial expressions, and comic timing were delightful to watch. He had a baritone voice that rocked the house, expert dancing talent, and a genuine fatherly presence. Also outstanding was the matchmaker Yente (Michelle Murgia). She had a consistent accent, dramatically comical antics, and an enthusiastic stage presence. Lazar Wolf the butcher (Dallas Sweezey) had a highly developed character and comedic dancing ability.
Tevye’s daughters Tzeitel (Ashley Dillard), Hodel (Carolyn Agan), and Chava (Michelle Polera) displayed an earnest girlish innocence and all had beautiful singing voices. Motel the tailor (Brian Randall) was consistently amusing and charmingly awkward. The entire ensemble had infectiously high energy and the ingenious choreography was consistently interesting.
The orchestra significantly added to the mood of each scene yet didn’t overpower the actors. The set was visually interesting as it combined a detailed kitchen and doorway while also showing all the houses in the village. The costumes were authentically shabby and consistent to the time period. The sound cues were flawless and the lighting was creative. There were stunning colors for each time of day and there were bright or dim lights at just the right time to accentuate the action on-stage.
"Fiddler on the Roof" has a sophisticated sensibility with many cultural nuances, which the entire cast and crew effectively captured. The production was perfectly executed and everyone was highly involved and energetic throughout the show. The story of Jewish displacement is an important story to share with audiences everywhere, and Westfield did the show commendable justice.