I truly enjoy some of the newer musicals. You know, those done in the past 35 years or so. But I am extremely fond of the older musicals, those I knew growing up. Classics, like “The Sound of Music”. “South Pacific”. “Oklahoma”. “Music Man”. Like them, there. So, when I heard local bastion, Encore Theatre was doing “Fiddler on the Roof”, this summer, I was grabbed by the notion that I could audition and participate in this timeless story. But my summer schedule did not work well with this rehearsal schedule, and I was unable to fulfill this dream.
But the fact that I was not to be able to do the show, means something positive. I am able to see the show and tell my readers how terrific it was. Is. And it was a wonderfully done show with great performances at every corner. I saw the show, tonight, with friends, who told us, afterward, how pleased they were with the performance. And in the next ten pages, or so, I shall attempt to more completely echo their good comments.
Encore has engaged Randy Bargerstock to direct this show. I know of Randy’s work through my affiliation with the drama department at Elida High School. I was first blown away by this man’s set designs for the shows his wife, Rhonda, directed. Lately, Randy has also directed, there, with outstanding results. With this talented cast, Mr. Bargerstock needed to have them all in the right place, at the right moment, with purpose. In every instance, transitions were seamless. Scene pieces moved in and out, were superbly functional, and stunning to the eye. He also imparted the gravity, clarity, and frivolity that this story requires. His actors never lost track of where they were going, and what they needed to do, once they arrived. Mr. B is a terrific director, and tonight only served to put more proof to the point.
It does help to have talent, across the board. And in the case of “Fiddler”, the biggest need for talent lands squarely at the feet of the main character, Tevye, the milkman. This guy must carry much of the show. He must set the tone for so many scenes, that a huge talent must be found. This director found such a talent. Local actor, Wendell Hill was, in every way, phenomenal. His speech, his singing voice, his comedic timing, and his keenly expressive face sold the large crowd at Encore on the anguishes and triumphs of Tevye. From the first moments of the play, I was seized by the plot and Mr. Hill’s monster part in it. Hill has said, in the near past, that this musical is one of his favorites and he is so thankful to be asked to be Tevye. Judging from their reactions, the audience was just as thankful.
In juxtaposition to Tevye’s often demanding, and forceful nature, his wife Golde must be every bit as big. Every bit as into the sad lot of her family. Kristina Sherrick played every bit of this woman as an in-your-face thorn. Her tirades were the source of many laughs from the audience. They loved her. The pairing of Sherrick and Hill made the family a joy to watch. Tevye and Golde have five daughters, the oldest three of which develop love issues that drive the drama. Elyse Hartman, as Tzeitel, Ava Maalouf as Hodel, and Catharine Myers as Chava were all highly invested in their characters. Their paramours, Austin Hill as Motel, Tod Fish, as Perchik, and Christian Garcia, as Fyedka, matched the intensity of their three women. All of these sang and danced well.
And the dancing was fabulous, all the way down the nearly forty-person cast list. It was truly a pleasure to witness these sets. I was anxious to see what choreographer Karin Dorsey had in store for us. Having witnessed her work, before, I expected great things. She did not disappoint, eliciting constant Oohs and Ahhs from an increasingly delighted group of viewers. We wanted a visual, to compliment the audio, and we got it. Every part of the production was first class.