The Gary-The Olivia Theater at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem located just outside of Woodbury is a wonderful outdoor theater with covered roof and comfortable seats. Set in a picturesque woodland, the theater continues to provide quality productions. Putting on a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein is always a major undertaking for community theaters. Most audiences know the story and the songs in the show very well, so the bar is immediately held high. The show’s history flaunts the fact that it was the first musical theater production to play for more than 3,000 performances and held the record for 10 years as the longest running show on the Great White Way.
If any musical has the right to boast its history, certainly “Fiddler” does. After all, it won nine Tony Awards and was made into a successful movie. Oh, and one more thing that made it unforgettable was Zero Mostel, who played the lead in the show as Tevye. It was hard to find another to step into that role, but Chaim Topol, known simply as Topol, filled the bill.
Considering that the show features such memorable songs as: “Tradition,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” and “To Life,” is it any wonder that the show was a hit. All of those songs are performed well in the current production of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Gary-The Olivia Theater in Bethlehem by the Clay & Wattles Theater Company. The show based on Sholem Aleichem’s story “Tevye and his Daughters,” takes place in a small Jewish town in Russia town called Anatevka. While Tevye considers himself the head of the family and expects his daughters to follow Jewish traditions, one by one his daughters move into a new era where times and traditions change faster than Tevye can keep up with and/or accept.
The musical is a classic and universal. Sally Camm, the director, announced before the curtain that this play would remind the audience of the immigrant experiences not only of yesteryear, but of today. Leaving behind one’s country to move to another is rife with uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
Camm does her usual fine job as direct/choreographer along with music director Jeremy Lombard. Fernando Jimenez is the conductor. Overall, the cast performs quite well. However, there was something lacking in the production and it was only when I realized that the audience wasn’t laughing very much that I knew it was the humor. The plot certainly has serious material, but there’s a lot of humor in this show. Every time I’ve seen this show, and there have been many times, there has always been a lot more humor. Tevye is much too serious here. As a character, Tevye is far too full of the joy of life with all its comic twists and turns to be serious.
However, the music is splendid. The musicians are wonderful, and the ensemble is filled with voices that bring out the best in each musical number. Thomas Camm plays Tevye with Barbara Salant as his wife Golde. Tevye’s three marriageable daughters all deliver fine vocals and outstanding performances. They include Megan Corcoran, Monica Charlene Brown and Adrienne Camm. Noah Pyzik as Motel the tailor also delivers a strong performance. I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention that the energetic and fascinating dancer/singer Chris Hendricks added excitement to the stage in each number he appeared in.
Others in the cast include William Dallas, Jay Wilkinson, Maria Price, Steve Sorriero, Pat Spalding, Jeff Tierney, David James Grant, Alex Gellweler, Alyssa Marino, Alexandra Camm, Eliana Valdivieso, Margaret Price, Nathan Valdivieso, Margaret Price, Nathan Valdivieso, Cole Cutrofello, Sarah Valdivieso and Zachary Valdivieso.