‘Fiddler' a musical theater tradition worth revisiting - Omaha.com
go logo
article photo
article photo
John Preece puts his own stamp on the character Tevye.


MUSICAL REVIEW

‘Fiddler' a musical theater tradition worth revisiting
By Todd von Kampen
WORLD-HERALD CORRESPENDENT


He may still be a few hundred performances shy of his character's most prolific performer, but it's delightfully obvious that John Preece knows Tevye the milkman as intimately as Tevye knows his God.

Only a few scattered seats were empty Tuesday night at the Orpheum Theater, where Preece, who last headlined “Fiddler on the Roof” in Omaha in 2005, opened a six-day run in the midst of his 10th national tour in the immortal Broadway musical.

Ably backed by an outstanding cast, Preece puts his own definitive stamp on one of the musical theater's most beloved roles — though one can clearly perceive his respect for Zero Mostel, Broadway's original Tevye, as well as Topol, who originated the role on the London stage and set the role's permanent standard in the 1971 movie.

When he finally retired from the role in 2009, Topol had some 2,500 performances as Tevye to his credit. Preece, with nearly 1,800 appearances of his own, separates himself from the Israeli-born actor with a slightly more humorous approach to the script's funniest lines and a softer, less restrained depiction of Tevye's emotions as the outside world invades and finally conquers his corner of 1905 Russia.

As Tevye explains the purpose of the Jewish prayer shawl early in “Tradition,” Preece drew laughter with a pregnant pause before answering, “How did this tradition get started?” with “I don't know.” But when third daughter Chava (Chelsey LeBel) declares her intention to marry the Christian Fyedka (Michael Shultz), Preece objects with a desperate anguish that remains consistent whenever her choice confronts him.

The other leading cast members likewise approach their roles with the confidence to avoid spot-on imitations of their predecessors on film. Andrew Boza, for example, takes Motel the tailor to new levels of geekiness as he initially shrinks from asking Tevye's permission to marry Tzeitel (Brooke Hills). But that merely heightens the moment when Motel forcefully discovers his own maturity: “Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness!”

Joshua Phan-Gruber's performance as Perchik, meanwhile, offers a reminder of the shortcomings of even the best Broadway film adaptations. He sings “Now I Have Everything,” omitted from the movie, in a way that proves that Perchik isn't completely clueless in expressing his feelings for Hodel (Sarah Sesler). The movie also eliminated a second-act speech more clearly linking Perchik's student activism to the spreading anti-Semitism in late czarist Russia.

Gerri Weagraff's Golde seems a bit less the shrew than small-screen audiences may be used to. But her character's Type A qualities had the audience roaring as she tries to get Tevye to meet Lazar Wolf (David B. Springstead Sr.) for the latter's proposal to Tzeitel. “Will you talk to him?” she says surprisingly sweetly before immediately letting Tevye have it: “WILL YOU TALK TO HIM?”

The vocal performances will disappoint few who attend “Fiddler” this week, though the chorus' staccato delivery of “Anatevka” eroded the song's mournful quality. As the show opens, however, the cast delivers “Tradition” with a powerful punch and crystal-clear diction that immediately captures the audience's attention.

Director Sammy Dallas Bayes reproduces Broadway legend Jerome Robbins' original choreography in this touring version.

How well does the cast perform the famous “bottle dance” at Tzeitel and Motel's wedding? The roar from the audience at its climax told it all. Spend a night in Anatevka this week if you can.


Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom


Copyright ©2014 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or redistributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

Latest Stories

Record Store Day draws long lines, record collectors, good tunes
Record Store Day draws long lines, record collectors, good tunes

At Homer's Music in the Old Market, the first person in line arrived at 4:30 a.m. Saturday.


Coachella: Best of Day 1 includes The Replacements, Outkast
Coachella: Best of Day 1 includes The Replacements, Outkast

Rock Candy correspondents Joel Henriksen and Keith Finn check in from Indio to review Friday's top sets from the godfather of indie rock festivals.


What to watch: Series premiere of 'Tobacco Wars' on CMT
What to watch: Series premiere of 'Tobacco Wars' on CMT

Kentucky has some interesting industries: moonshine, ginseng and fire-cured tobacco. This series goes inside the high-stakes world starting with planting season.


Maha Music Festival announces lineup; might be its best yet
Maha Music Festival announces lineup; might be its best yet

August concert promises to pack Stinson Park with indie rock fans.


A saliva-inducing look at M's Pub's new happy hour
A saliva-inducing look at M's Pub's new happy hour

The downtown staple recently introduced a happy hour. And its menu's pretty amazing.


Dining review: If you're craving sushi, head to Benson's Taita
Dining review: If you're craving sushi, head to Benson's Taita

Chef Jose Dionicio has wisely refocused Taita on sushi, and the well-crafted small bites of fresh fish I tasted from his one-man sushi bar are delectable.


New Benson BBQ restaurant opens next week
New Benson BBQ restaurant opens next week

Fusion BBQ, at 7024 Maple St., focuses on American style barbecue cooking melded with international cuisines.


Nebraska's best burger determined by folks who know about this kind of thing
Nebraska's best burger determined by folks who know about this kind of thing

The Nebraska Beef Council announced the winner of its Nebraska's Best Burger contest.


Rockbrook Village restaurant Taste has a new chef
Rockbrook Village restaurant Taste has a new chef

Ryan Devitt will come to the restaurant as both a chef and partner to focus on farm-to-table style cuisine.


Over Easy will host a west Omaha block party
Over Easy will host a west Omaha block party

Over Easy is playing host to a west Omaha block party this summer.


 
Search
Movies Opening this week

Movie showtimes and theater listings






Read this!








VIDEOS

Tonight in Prime Time
© 2014 Omaha World-Herald. All rights reserved