First-rate Fiddler on the Roof makes good on tradition

Richmond’s Ranae Miller as Tzeitel (centre, right) dances with Patti Allen, who is Golde in Fiddler on the Roof.  - David Cooper photo
Richmond’s Ranae Miller as Tzeitel (centre, right) dances with Patti Allen, who is Golde in Fiddler on the Roof.
— image credit: David Cooper photo

So America is heading for the fiscal cliff, and taking the global economy with it. But alas, a buoyant bearded man at Gateway Theatre is offering a remedy right up until the eve of the predicted economic doomsday.

Enter Tevye, who’s giving the 99 Per Cent a reason to sing “If I Were a Rich Man.” It’s among the memorable songs brought to life in the Richmond theatre’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.

The monumental musical established itself early as one of greats, and director Christopher McGregor is maintaining tradition by giving us a sparkling show.

It begins with a show of force quite unusual for most theatres—28 actors on stage backed by a 10-piece orchestra singing “Tradition.”

It sets the stage for philosophical milkman Tevye, who is torn between upholding tradition with respecting wishes of his five daughters. The audience is taken to a small Jewish village in 1905 pre-Revolutionary Russia where matchmaking rules. Tevye’s daughters, however, aren’t buying the custom. They want love—even if it means a sentence in Siberia or marrying outside the faith.

There are plenty of great performances here. David Adams gives us a true Tevye by skillfully balancing empathy and stubbornness. Patti Allan is delightful as the sharp-tongued mother Golde. Ranae Miller is a brilliant Tzeitel, one of many rising stars who also include Kat Palmer (Hodel), Alex Pangburn (Motel Kamzoil) and David Cohen (Mendel).

Choreographing a huge and varied cast is handled deftly by Dawn Ewen, who navigated Drew Facey’s charming village set neatly divided by towering trees. There’s nothing sloppy here. Memorable moments are even made in freeze-frame and Cirque-like appearance of grandma.

It’s no accident a musical with themes keying on family and tradition is being staged during the holiday season. Many come to Gateway in December out of family tradition. This year, audiences will find a Fiddler that’s first-rate.

Fiddler on the Roof

•Gateway Theatre MainStage, Dec. 12 to 31 (Dec. 14 opening night)

•Book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

•David Adams stars, Christopher McGregor directs

•Tickets, $30 to $48, at gatewaytheatre.com or 604-270-1812

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