Approaching its 50th anniversary next month, “Fiddler On the Roof” is a great, sprawling Broadway classic with magnificent songs and moving and universal themes of tradition vs. change and old vs. young. But what makes or breaks the show is the character of Tevye, the narrator and spiritual centerpiece.
Fortunately, Light Opera Works’ new production of “Fiddler,” which runs through Aug. 24 at Cahn Auditorium, features a magnificent Tevye in Alex Honzen, who performs the role with nuance and feeling. Mr. Honzen is a veteran of the company, having played in Light Opera Works’ “Man of La Mancha,” “The Mikado” and “Oklahoma.” A classically trained singer, he delivers stunning renditions of some of the show’s signature tunes, including “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sabbath Prayer” and, of course, “Tradition.”
But the cast is so uniformly good it is almost a shame to single out individuals. Jenny Lamb, seen most recently in Light Opera Works’ production of “Damn Yankees,” is a very fine and funny Golde, Tevye’s long-suffering wife. The older daughters, played by Yael Wartens, Katelin Spencer and Meredith Kochan, are splendid. The other male leads, including Neil Stratman as Motel and Rick Rapp as Lazar Wolf, are very fine. Orchestra, chorus and set are up to the always-high Light Opera Works standards. Even the fiddler, played by Ryan Naimy, is outstanding. It can’t be easy sawing away while perched two stories up.
Any shortcoming the show may have is in the mix. Aside from Mr. Honzen, whose voice carries easily to the back of the hall, it was hard to hear all the dialogue and songs, and sometimes lines and even whole scenes were swallowed up in an indistinguishable mumble. Better miking would solve the problem immediately.
A more challenging issue is length. At almost three hours – 110 minutes in the first act alone – the show drags here and there, and though veteran director and choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller generally kept things moving, judicious cuts (for example to some of the interminable gallivanting after the wedding) would have made for a tighter, brisker pace.
But even after half a century, “Fiddler” remains fresh, exciting, joyful and timeless. Happily, Light Opera Works does it great justice.
The season will continue with the concert production “Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits,” Oct. 3-12 and “The Merry Widow,” Dec. 9-31. Tickets are available at 847-920-5360 or www.LightOperaWorks.com.