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Virginia Repertory Theatre Fiddler on the Roof

By • Nov 25th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Fiddler on the Roof
Virginia Repertory Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Virginia Rep Center – November Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through January 12th
2:40 with intermission
$36-$60/$30 Rush/$15 Students
Reviewed November 24th, 2013

This has been a busy and interesting weekend as a reviewer. It’s been the first time I have reviewed three shows in one weekend and they have all been musicals. After seeing two shows I had never seen before, today I went to see Virginia Rep’s Fiddler on the Roof. Fiddler is not only the play I have seen the most; it is also the one I have performed in the most (six different casts, including four times as Motel the Tailor. I used to tell people I was a “professional Motel!”) With all that history, it was going to be challenging to make the production interesting or new for me, but Virginia Rep succeeded in doing just that.

The greatest asset of this production is David Benoit as Tevye. Benoit is bombastic, personable and charismatic as the father of five Jewish daughters in Tsarist Russia in 1905. His energy, comic timing and powerful vocals add a touch of Broadway star power to the Richmond stage. As my guest said, Benoit was just awesome not only in his talent, but in showing his heart and love of God and his family!

The second greatest asset is Brian Prather’s set design. While made of only bare essentials such as wood frames, bare trees and picket fences, it is always visually appealing. Special effects such as tableaus seen through a scrim, characters who fly, and a final scene where the stage rotates while the actors walk in place were all effective touches.

My only complaint with the set was latticework containing Jewish symbols on all four corners of the stage which seemed a bit heavy-handed and out-of-place.

Overall I was impressed with the staging by Director Richard M. Parison Jr and Choreographer Karen Getz, except for the initial musical number where the small village of Anatevka became even smaller — with only a handful of actors on stage to perform “Tradition.” The choice seemed to be to go with bigger dance steps and fewer actors on stage, which weakened the power of the iconic number. This was corrected in the wedding scene, where the size of the village seemed to double.

The performances of the other members of Tevye’s family were also high quality. Tamara Johnson, as his wife Golde, was strong and formidable. While her singing wasn’t quite to the level of Benoit’s, the two worked well together as a couple. The three principal daughters; Audra Honaker as Tzeitel, Brittany D. Simmons as Hodel and Ally Dods as Chava, were all youthful, sweet and vocally strong. In another personal note, I once performed opposite Broadway Diva Carolee Carmello as Hodel, and Simmons showed every bit the promise Carolee displayed back in the day.

Other noteworthy performances came from Nicholas Park as Motel the Tailor and Mary Anne Furey as Grandma Tzeitel. A bit more work was needed on the accents of some of the performers attempting Russian dialects, however.

As we start the holiday season, there will be Christmas shows galore. With no Hanukkah anthem show, Fiddler serves as a good substitute; and Virginia Rep’s production serves as an excellent evening of musical theater.

Photo Gallery

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Photos by Aaron Sutten

Cast

  • Tevye: David Benoit
  • Golde: Tamara Johnson
  • Tzeitel: Audra Honaker
  • Hodel: Brittany D. Simmons
  • Chava: Ally Dods
  • Shprintze: Kendall Wilkinson or Mila Cesaretti
  • Bielke: Maggie Scott or Tori Eriavez
  • Yente: Debra Clinton
  • Lazar Wolf: Richard Travis
  • Rabbi: Cary Houseman
  • Mordcha: Barry Pruitt
  • Mendel: Boe Wank
  • Avram: Matthew Curiano
  • Motel: Nicholas Park
  • Perchik: Matt Zimmerman
  • The Fiddler: Neil Rushnock
  • Boy: Zachary Kenney
  • Constable: Andrew C. Boothby
  • Fyedka: Samuel Elton
  • Sasha: Kevin Scott
  • Grandma Tzeitel: Mary Anne Furey
  • Fruma-Sarah: Bianca Bryan
  • Russian Soloist: Daniel Bontempo
  • Company: James Bock, Daniel Bontempo, Bianca Bryan, Jon Cooper, Matthew Curiano, Mary Anne Furey, Lauren Marie Hafner, Shaina Virginia Kuhn, Will Meredith, Bryan Charles Moore, Neil Rushnock, Kevin scott, Boe Wank

For This Production

  • Director: Richard M. Parison Jr.
  • Musical Director: Anthony Smith
  • Choreographer: Karen Getz
  • Stage Manager: Wendy Vandergrift
  • Set Designer: Brian Prather
  • Lighting Design: Robert Perry
  • Costume Design: Sue Griffin
  • Sound Design: Derek Dumais
  • Cover Art Illustration: Robert Meganck
  • Assistant to the Choreographer: Lauren Marie Hafner, Bryan Charles Moore
  • Dance Captain: Bryan Charles Moore
  • Assistant Stage Managers: Rick Brandt, Kristy Bell
  • Sound Engineer: Derek Dumais
  • Assistant to the Lighting Engineer: Skyler Broughman
  • Studio Assistant Lighting Designer: Angie Jorgensen
  • Deck and Fly Crew: Luke Robinson, Tommy Hawfield
  • Head Flyman: Jason Wineberger
  • Follow Spot Operators: Skyler Broughman, Libby Majette
  • Light Board Operator: Linwood Guyton
  • Music Operator: Katie Monfet
  • Wardrobe: Ruth Hedberg, Rosanna Bencoach

Disclaimer: Virginia Repertory Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

2 Responses »

  1. A name correction has been made to an actor’s name in the review. I apologize for missing that during the editing process. Mike

  2. A correction was made to an error in a name. I apologize for not catching that typo. Mike