The Manatee Players is currently running an enjoyable production of the endearingly entertaining “Fiddler on the Roof.” This classic, with book by Joseph Stein and based on the Sholem Aleichem stories, is set in Russia in 1905, just prior to the Russian Revolution. The play’s title refers to the lives of the people in the small village of Anatevka, which are as shaky as a fiddler on a roof.
Its opening prologue, featuring the fiddler in silhouette on the roof against a sunset sky, reminiscent of Chagall’s famous painting (scenery designed by Michael J. Kent), introduces Tevye, a milkman, and the villagers. The song “Tradition” tells Tevye’s basic predicament — he is a Jewish father of daughters, struggling to make ends meet in a country antipathetic to Judaism. This all-important lead role is well played and sung by Michael Baijaly, who next delivers “If I were a Rich Man.”
Jerry Bock’s music and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics provide one fabulous hit after another, all done great justice by Musical Director Bobby Brader. Director Cheryl Carty brings us echoes of Jerome Robbins' original New York stage production. The authentic looking costumes, designed by Jean Boothby, appear meticulously constructed.
Meg Newsome does a great job as Yente, the matchmaker. The song itself is one of the musical’s most famous numbers and it follows up the theme of traditional Hebrew values versus the modern world, and the coming changes in Jewish life.
Sharon Albert in the role of Golde, Tevye’s wife, especially shines in the duet “Do You Love Me.” “Miracle of Miracles,” another classic, is sung by Abe Johnson as the penniless tailer, Motel, who aspires to marry Tevye’s oldest daughter, Tzeitel, played by Marina Wright.
“Now I Have Everything” is beautifully sung by Katherine C. Herbert and Nick Drivas, both standouts in the parts of Hodel, second daughter, and Perchik, the student. Emily Arthur, Audrey Lipton, and Emma Devine play Tevye’s remaining daughters.
The large-and-lively cast includes Rik Robertson as Lazar Wolf; Dan Coppinger as Mordcha; William M. Zimmermann as the Rabbi; Andrew Kent as Mendel; Dan Salisbury as Avram; Stella Arent as Nachum; Deborah Chocran as Grandma Tzeitel; Dawn Dougherty as Fruma-Sarah; Jim DeBolt as the Constable; J.D. Carter as Fyedka; Valerie Westfall as Shaindel; and a very light on her feet Eliza Lipton as The Fiddler.