Friday, November 24, 2023

Fiddler on the Roof at Olney Theatre

Director Peter Flynn’s staging begins after Fiddler’s narrative ends, in a timeless version of the immigration center where the Jews of Anatevka hope to land. Tevye has arrived with his wife and two youngest daughters, eager to regain a sense of community by sharing the story of his family’s displacement and its struggles between tradition and progress. So, he enlists others who want to immigrate to America – and who have likely also been displaced, as he has – in telling his story and creating (metaphorically) the American community he hopes to join. Those whom he enlists will be the ensemble members representing the many different ethnic and religious backgrounds found in the Olney Theatre community, one of the most diverse in America.

The above is from the Olney Theatre's into to the new staging of the timeless story of the lives, woes, happiness and persecution of the Jews of Anatevka, by now one of the most recognizable and truly timeless stage plays of our times.

I first saw this play when our High School class at Aviation High School in Queens, New York went to see in on Broadway; almost 50 years later the play remains as fresh, entertaining and heart-touching as ever!

“Without changing a word or note of this beautiful musical, Peter Flynn’s staging celebrates that most typical Jewish-American journey and links that journey with an American immigrant story that continues today. His idea perfectly reflects the changing mission of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS): We used to aid refugees because they were Jews. Now we aid refugees because we are Jews." As Cantor Stephanie Weishaar said to me when I told her about our plans, ‘the enduring power of Fiddler is that for every culture, in every part of the world, they see THEIR story in Fiddler.’”  -- - Jason Loewith, Artistic Director

The new interpretation (essentially the beginning starts at the arrival to America) is not heavy handed at all, and in fact Fiddler flows in such a way that once the well-known songs start flowing, it remains a magical holiday show.

Sumié Yotsukura
The cast is of the new Fiddler is (as usual with Olney's productions) superb in this often athletic show, with really good performance from Sophie Shulman (Tzeitel), Sumié Yotsukura (Hodel), Rachel Stern (Golde), Ariana Caldwell (Chava), Noah Keyishian (Perchik), Michael Wood (Motel), Howard Kaye (Tevia), and Graciela Rey as the hypnotic Fiddler.

Yotsukura is easily the true stand-out in the show -- she easily floats between the many emotions and feelings of her character with elegance and grace - she's able to capture emotions with physical nuances of her body as a whole, not just macro expressions from her face - without a doubt the rising star of this show. 

Graciela Rey
Rey as the Fiddler is masterful with nearly impossible dance movements, leg lifts, physical flows as she leaps, spins and dances on top of buildings, weaves in and out between members of the cast as an almost invisible force; all along a gleaming smile on her face.

Her athletic prowess ties the entire show together!

The show is choreographed by Lorna Ventura and Directed by Peter Flynn and runs through December 31st.

Olney Theater is located at 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832.