‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is atop the WCT

The Whittier Community Theatre, in celebrating its 91st wonderful season, has put on an elegant and buoyant performance of the 1960s classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” by Joseph Stein. The rich presentation of an orthodox Jewish culture under the assault of a vastly changing world goes beyond its complex themes of a simple humanity pitted against far more diabolical forces and resonates beyond the relatively simple plotline of the musical.
Taking place in the Jewish shtetle of Anatevka, Russia in 1905, right on the eave of the Russian Revolution, the solemn and at times comical musical revolves around a poor Jewish family.
From the opening number dubbed rightfully Tradition, the music places emphasis on the strong Jewish ties that become much of the main internal conflict of Tevye, the dairyman and patriarch to the Jewish family focused on in the musical.
Portrayed brilliantly by Richard De Vicariis, Tevye playfully commands much of the stage presence with his lighthearted humor about his own misfortune and the authority of his voice that embodies the very strength of Jewish tradition in small town of  Anatevka. Incidentally, Vicariis was also apart of a number of Rio Hondo productions as well.
Candy Beck, who plays Golde, the stern but caring mother,  holds her own beautifully on stage in communicating to the audience the aches  and pains of her burden as mother and wife.
The three eldest daughters of the family, who subsequently gain permission from their father to marry increasingly “unfit” men, according to traditional Jewish standards of marriage, are played excellently by Amy Anderson, Mackenzie Rae Campbell, and Rebecca Shroeder who offer a strong musical cadence as well as an outlet to which the audience throws their empathy for their young-love.
Two of the daughters love interests, Motel, the timid and passionate tailor, and Perchik, the revolutionary and idealistic student, add to the cast a youthful quality both in song and beliefs, seems to challenge the older members of the village. Jay Miramontes’ use of Motel meshes together both the sheepishness of the tailor and his strong love, combined with his impressive singing ability. Likewise Justin Patrick Murphy who wowed the audience with his delightful dancing in the famous “bottle dance,” as well as his subtle charm and powerful voice.
The grand spectacle of the musical itself revolves around the overall efficiency with which the traditional Jewish themes of clothing, dance, and culture was portrayed. As well that of the overbearing Russian influence upon the townspeople.
Andi Townsend, Roxie Lee, and Karen Jacobson costumes were wonderfully adapt, to say the least. The clothing of the actors was rightfully rugged and worn out, typical of Russian peasants of the time, coupled successfully with the few orthodox Jewish pieces worn by most of the actors.
This combined with the music, which was elegantly conducted and restrained by Bill Wolfe, added to the overall sense that one was truly sitting their in Anatevka. Most notable was David Ickler’s performance upon the violin, which can best be described as a graceful, soothing tune at times of immense stress during the musical. Nancy West does a very accomplished job with simple, but fitting set pieces that evoke strong ideas of what certain aspects of life might’ve looked like in a Jewish shtetle in 1905.
As the director of the musical, Jacobson keeps the plot and actors moving at an upbeat pace that enthralls the audience every minute of the lengthy production. Most notably, her depiction of the dream sequence in which Tevye and Golde are slipped into a comical and nightmarish number, was visually startling and stunning.
Lindsay Martin’s choreography in the performance of the “bottle dance,” performed by Murphy and Miramontes, as well as Andres Martinez and Don Eldredge, was so skillfully done that the sheer difficulty and the fact that not one lost a bottle was enough to evoke from the audience a seemingly endless applause.
Without a doubt, the WCT put on a memorable performance of “Fiddler” that loyally combined the sentimental themes of an aging Jewish community struggling with change that was powerfully emphasized by the overall production’s ability to connect on numerous sentimental and comical levels with the audience.
It is definitely a show worth seeing for both veteran playgoers and first-timers as well. If at the very least when curtain call rolls around, you’ll find yourself pleasantly whistling along to the catchy, upbeat musical numbers sung by the genuine, heartfelt performance of such a joyful cast.