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Porthouse offering ‘stunning’ production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

8/1/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

George Roth portrays Tevye as he sings “If I Were A Rich Man” in Porthouse Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Photo: Bob Christy
CUYAHOGA FALLS — “God knows when we shall meet again.” This line from “Fiddler on the Roof” seems appropriate for the last show of the season at Porthouse Theatre.

However, we’ll have great memories of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is on stage through Aug. 11. The production is excellent in every way.

The script is based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories of Tevye and his daughters, which were first published in 1894. The script was written by Joseph Stein (book), Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics).

I have been fortunate to see the two leading actors in other productions. George Roth plays Tevye, a role that seems written for him. He’s a poor man living in Anatevka, a small village in Russia in 1905. He has cows, a lame horse, five daughters and a wife. He supports his family by selling milk and cheese from a wagon his lame horse can no longer pull. Roth brings Tevye to life as a man of faith who occasionally stops all action to have a conversation with God. 

Tracee Patterson creates his long-suffering wife, Golde. Patterson is an excellent performer and makes Golde impatient and loving at the same time.

The opening song, “Tradition,” sets the tone for the play. The people in Anatevka like the status quo. They expect to live, grow old and die in the Jewish tradition. But, just over the horizon, the Russian Revolution is brewing, and in Europe the seeds of World War I have been planted. Maintaining traditions will be impossible. 

Director Eric van Baars does an excellent job of leading the large cast to create individual, specific characters. He helps create a village where tradition is the way of life, and then he leads his cast to splinter the traditions, leave the little village and be strewn across the globe. 

John Crawford reproduced the original choreography. This task could be daunting in the hands of someone less talented than Crawford. In a sequence titled “The Dream,” Crawford has most of the cast on the Porthouse stage dancing Tevye’s nightmare. This stunning number establishes the tone for the wedding scene that follows.

Lissy Gulick creates the gentle busy body Yente and earns the laughs the playwright wrote for the character. Gulick continues to be one of the best mature-lady actors in this area.

Jake Wood as the revolutionary Perchik charms Tevye’s family and wins one of the daughters for his wife. Wood is appearing in the Porthouse summer season for the first time this year. He’s a talented actor and singer. I hope we get to see him in other Porthouse productions.

The cast is excellent. Van Baars surrounded himself with first-rate performers, without a weak link.

The 11-piece orchestra, conducted by Jennifer Korecki, provides the right amount of musical support for the singers and the big dance sequences. 

For tickets, call 330-672-3884.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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