A dynamic version of Fiddler on theRoof is winning laughs, tears and cheers at the Knock 'em Dead Dinner Theatre. Topping his memorable production of this show nine years ago, Director Scott Beseman again plays the leading role of Tevye, the poor dairyman who wishes he "Were a Rich Man." Beseman's character creation is riveting, especially in his talks with God, as he is buffeted by a changing world that seems determined to undermine the traditions that sustain him and the villagers of Anatevka in 1905.
Beseman's robust portayal of Tevye carries the show along at a delightful pace, emphasizing the humor and pain of life for Jews in Russia on the eve of the revolutionary era. Tevye's wife, Golde, is played by Bea Eichmann Allen with feisty charm. It must be quite a stretch going from her last role at KED (a Catholic mother superior in Nunsense II) to a Jewish mother in Fiddler. Cynthia Tank as Yente, the matchmaker, is a somewhat subdued character, but she does bring a lively comic flair to the role.
Much of the storyline for Fiddler deals with the love lives of the oldest three of Tevye's five daughters. These actresses are extraordinary, earning the audience's sympathy with their rich character interpretations and their voices. Susie Jeffords, in her 40th show at KED, plays Tzeitel, the daughter who loves the town's poor tailor. Jeffords' despair when her father arranges a marriage between her and the wealthy (but older) butcher is so impressive you almost want to weep with her.
Michael Case is superb as the ambitious but meek tailor, Motel, and his song, "Miracles of Miracles" is a perfect embodiment of joy.
Kate Jones makes daughter Hodel a perky, saucy girl who is intrigued by Perchik, the visiting university student with radical ideas. Her rendition of "Far from the Home I Love" is emotional and heartbreaking. Brent Jones (real-life husband of Kate) makes Perchik one of the stand-out characters in the show, exhibiting a fresh clarity in his role and superb projection.
The third daughter, Chava, is portrayed with charming sweetness by Emily Anderson, who looks too young to even be thinking of boys. When she falls for a non-Jewish, Russian soldier, sensitively played by Josh Hurley, it almost destroys her father. But, clinging to his traditions and other family responsibilities, Tevye struggles on.
Veteran actor Jay Sherlock (in spite of his public declarations of retirement from performing) is hilarious and lovable as the wise, Holy Book quoting rabbi.
Aided by Mark Zimmerer's unique set design, Beseman has created a powerful and moving show, embellished by the clever bottle dancers, an inspirational candlelit Sabbath ceremony with outstanding choral singing and an amazingly talented young fiddler, Nigel Goodwin from Eagle High School--who actually sits on the roof!
While you can attend just the play, I would recommend making an evening of it by including the different and tasty "Russian" dinner, prepared for the first time at KED by Sonia's Catering. The Kotlety Posharskie (stuffed chicken breast with onion sauce), traditional Russian potato salad, roasted root vegetables and homemade Challah bread (served with generous portions of real butter) all seem very appropriate and delicious.
Both the meal and the dramatic musical are so satisfying, you should leave the theater singing "L'Chaim!" To life!
Fiddler on the Roof
Knock 'em Dead Dinner Theatre, 333 S. 9th St., Boise
Thursday to Saturday through November 6
Thursday: 7 p.m., show only $15.50 general; $12.50 students and seniors
Friday and Saturday: dinner at 6:30, show at 8 p.m.; dinner and show $34.50, show only tickets $17.50 at door.
Dinner tickets should be purchased at least 24 hours in advance: 426-1494 or www.idahotickets.com.