Book By: Joseph Stein, based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories.
Music by: Jerry Bock
Lyrics by: Sheldon Harnick
Company: BDT Stage
Venue: BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO
Running Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes (includes 20 minutes intermission, but does not include dinner).
Date of Performance: Tuesday, February 17, 2015. (Benefit performance for the Denver Actor’s Fund.)
You may be asking yourself…”What? Another review of Fiddler on the Roof at BDT Stage?”
I wouldn’t blame you for asking. It’s been reviewed by some of the best critics in Colorado, to unanimous acclaim. See here, here, and here. They’re right. This is a Fiddler on the Roof for the ages.
I’m not writing this review just to confirm my colleagues’ conclusions. Nor am I writing in the hope that BDT Stage sells more tickets; the rest of the run is sold out. I am not just looking to add to BDT’s pile of praise; they have plenty already.
I would write this review even if no one were ever to see it. I could bury it in my filing cabinet, never to see the light of day, but I cannot resist putting my thoughts in writing after such an unforgettable experience. Fiddler on the Roof at BDT Stage is exactly that. It’s unforgettable.
If you are getting the sense that this is not a typical review for Theater Colorado, you are correct. Rather than an analysis of the show, this post focuses on just two subjects that make BDT Stage's Fiddler on the Roof an extraordinary event.
It was a long drive home after the show. The performance ended at 10:10 PM, and it’s nearly 100 miles from Boulder to our home in Colorado Springs. We didn’t get home until nearly midnight. Roxie slept most of the way, which gave me a lot of time to think about what I had seen and experienced at Arapahoe and 55th in Boulder. I kept rerunning the show in my head, trying to understand why it had such an impact on me. Sure, the production values are top shelf. The performances were all professional. The music, the lights, the sound, the set, everything, really, was of the highest quality. The highest quality for productions is a trademark of BDT Stage.
I decided there are two reasons why the BDT Stage Fiddler on the Roof stayed with me long after the show is over.
Here are those two reasons.
1. Wayne Kennedy as Tevye
I don’t know Wayne Kennedy (Tevye) personally, but I shook his hand after the show and said “thanks.” By that, I meant thanks for his marvelous performance, and thanks for donating his wages to the Denver Actor’s Fund that night.
The impact of Fiddler on the Roof starts (but doesn’t end) with Kennedy, and the Tevye he becomes for three hours. He’s a Tevye with a heart and a soul. Kennedy’s Tevye is a father with a deep love for his children and for Golde, his wife.
Kennedy gives us a Tevye who is devoted to the “traditions” that make him a Jew, but wise enough to break with tradition for those he loves. He's devoted, determined, and sometimes angry, but also given to thoughtful reflection and changing his mind occasionally.
Kennedy is a husband and father. I suspect that, when he’s offstage, he is perhaps a great deal like Tevye. Wise. Loving. And with a huge heart and soul.
There’s a critical moment in the first act, where Kennedy explains Tevye's Jewish traditions:
“Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka,
we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat... how to work... how to wear clothes.
For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that
shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, "How did this tradition get started?"
I'll tell you!”
Kennedy walks downstage, and leans over to make eye contact with one person in the first row. Inches from that person’s face, he answers his own question with this aside:
“I don't know.”
That is a defining moment for me. Kennedy makes direct contact with the audience. He admits that he doesn’t know how his traditions began. That’s important, because Tevye is called on by his daughters to break with those traditions. When faced with making his daughters happy or adhering to a tradition, he will choose to make his daughters happy if he can.
Kennedy’s Tevye is the reason Fiddler on the Roof works so well. He speaks to us, literally, in asides. He shows us the qualities we aspire to, even if we don’t always achieve those qualities. At the outset, he considers love to be a radical concept; at the finish, he embodies it. He has learned life's hardest lessons, some at a great personal cost.
Kennedy's performance is sometimes subtle, sometimes harsh, and always endearing. He is reason enough to buy a ticket.
2. The relevance of Fiddler on the Roof after 50 years.
There is a second reason why Fiddler on the Roof had a huge impact on me. It is surprisingly relevant, given that it debuted on Broadway in 1964.
The first act of Fiddler includes the familiar song Tradition. Kennedy doesn’t belt it out like a lot of Tevyes. Rather, his Tradition is a simple statement of who he is and what he believes.
Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
Traditions aside, Tevye is a pensive but loving father when two of his daughters choose to marry someone not to his liking. They reject the matchmaker, and they reject the tradition of the patriarch giving permission to marry. He wisely relents and gives Hodel and Tzeitel his permission to marry the ones they love:
On the other hand, did Adam and Eve have a matchmaker?... Well, yes, they did. And it
seems these two have the same Matchmaker!
Unfortunately for Tevye's daughter Chava, one tradition could not be overcome. Marrying outside the faith was a bridge too far for Tevye.
There are some American families today reliving Tevye's conflicts when a son or daughter announces who he or she intends to marry. Same sex marriage is a bridge too far for many parents, and no permission or blessing will be given to their children. The result will often be a fractured family and life long damage.
Tevye knows something that the “traditional marriage” advocates have yet to learn. After refusing to grant a blessing or permission to his daughter Chava, she married Fyedka anyway. Tradition cost Tevye a daughter. People in love will do what they must to be together, and that’s a lesson that is still lost on the “traditional marriage” proponents. Our children will marry whomever they please, with or without our permission.
I can't help but mention that the February 17th performance of Fiddler was especially relevant because it was a benefit for the Denver Actor’s Fund. The cast and crew donated their wages to the Colorado theater community. They made themselves relevant by giving their time, their talent, and their compensation to those in need. Sometimes a show changes lives. This one set out to do exactly that. Theater doesn’t get any more relevant than that.
Although I have only addressed two thoughts about Fiddler here, that does not in any way diminish the outstanding work of all the rest of the cast and crew. It takes a lot of people to put together a great production, and BDT Stage demonstrates excellence at every level and in every detail. My extended praise here for Wayne Kennedy simply recognizes that he is Tevye, and Fiddler on the Roof is, at its core, about that lead character and his values. However, every single person, and every single part of BDT Stage’s Fiddler on the Roof is praiseworthy. My hat is off to Michael J. Duran, Director and Producer, and to all his talented cast and crew, for bringing this gem to the BDT Stage.
Don’t take my word for it. Ask anyone who has seen Fiddler on the Roof. Or ask those who still have tickets to see it. It’s sold out, so you can’t judge it for yourself. You’ll have to count on those of us who did.
It was spectacular.
This show is suitable for all ages.
There is ample free parking in the lot at the theater and on neighboring streets.
This production closes on February 28, 2015.
If you’re unaware of the good work being done by the Denver Actor’s Fund (DAF), you can learn more here. Fiddler on the Roof on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 was a benefit for the DAF. In a relatively short time (about a year and half), they have grown from a concept to a viable, living, breathing testament to the character of the Colorado theater community. The fund raiser is over, but they’re still accepting donations here.
Pre or Post Show Dining Suggestion:
Dinner is included in your ticket price.
PHOTO CREDITS: BDT Stage/Glenn Ross Photography.
TICKETS HERE: Sorry. The remainder of the run of Fiddler on the Roof has sold out.
Director/Producer: Michael J. Duran
Musical Director/Conductor: Neal Dunfee
Technical Director: Jared Williams
Choreographer: Alicia Dunfee
Scenic Design: Amy Campion
Sound Design: Wayne Kennedy
Lighting Design: Brett Maughan
Hair/Wig Design: Debbie Spaur
Costumes: Linda Morken
Stage Manager: Seamus McDonough
Tevye: Wayne Kennedy
Golde: Shelly Cox-Robie
Tzeitel: Jessica Hindsley
Hodel: Rebekah Ortiz
Chava: Sarah Grover
Motel: Brett Ambler
Perchik: Burke Walton
Fyedka: Matt LaFontaine
Lazar Wolf: Scott Beyette
Mordcha: Bob Hoppe
Sasha: Jason Vargas
Yente: Barb Reeves
Rabbi: Brian Burron
Avrahm: Matthew D. Peters
Constable: Scott Severtson
Mendel: Brian Cronan
The Fiddler: Tracy Warren
Grandma Tzeitel: Joanie Brousseau
Fruma-Sarah: Amanda Earl
Shaindel/Motel’s Mother: Bren. Eyestone Burron
Young Students: Carter Hanson, Matt Reichen, Ethan Leland, Thomas Russo
Piano/Conductor: Neal Dunfee
Violin: Jean Denney, Leah Mohling, Morgan Denney
Reeds: Nick Vocatura, April Johanessen
Trumpet: Rob Reynolds, Rich Dustin
Trombone: Michael Hilton, Gail Harris
Bass: Carlton Bacon, Jon Stubbs
Drums: Nick Gnojek, Dean Vlachos