‘Fiddler on the Roof’ hits all the right notes at Paramount Theatre
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org March 9, 2013 10:28AM
Understudy David Girolmo took to the stage opening night in a brilliant turn as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. | Photo by Liz Lauren
‘Fiddler On the Roof’
When: Through March 24
Where: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
Info: (630) 896-6666; www.ParamountAurora.com
Run time: Two hours and 40 minutes with one intermission
Updated: April 12, 2013 6:05AM
Change is the only constant in life. Just ask Tevye, the philosophical milkman at the center of “Fiddler on the Roof,” that masterpiece of a Broadway musical fast approaching its half-century anniversary.
Tevye also will tell you that the only way to stay somewhat rooted on this Earth is to hold fast to tradition, even if tradition, too has a way of slipping out of one’s grasp. As he discovers, even in a deeply patriarchal society daughters have a way of declaring their freedom. And even in the small, well-established Russian shtetl of Anatevka, circa 1905, the Czar and his soldiers have a way of pushing the fiddler off the roof and sending the Jewish community into exile almost overnight.
All this is brought to vivid life in the beloved and ever-astonishing musical by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem — a show in which every scene and every song is so perfectly wrought that you cannot help but find yourself saying: They really don’t write musicals like this anymore.
And, just in case you needed additional proof that the Paramount Theatre in Aurora is now continually one-upping Broadway — with productions featuring exceptional performances, a grand-scale orchestra and lavish design — this “Fiddler” easily serves as the latest proof. With propulsive direction by Jim Corti (Paramount’s artistic director), thrilling choreography by Gordon Peirce Schmidt (inspired by Jerome Robbins, but with many added flourishes), and lush musical direction by Michael Keefe that fills the beautifully restored 2,800-seat theater, the show moves far beyond “golden age of Broadway” nostalgia. Fresh, funny and stormily emotional, it is a must-see for a whole new generation.
And by the way, the understudy went on for Tevye and easily stole the show. Veteran actor David Girolmo took over for an ailing Peter Kevoian on opening weekend, giving a knockout performance in the King Lear-like role of Tevye. The Shakespearean reference is apt. Tevye’s alternately comic, sardonic, wailing conversations with God are the equivalent of the soliloquies in any number of the bard’s plays. And Girolmo, a big man with earthy instincts, a terrific voice, grand exuberance in his dancing, and an effortless ability to grab hold of the audience, easily nailed every crucial moment.
He was not alone. Iris Lieberman brings a pragmatic, loving shrewishness to Golda, his wife. Renee Matthews, born to play Yente the matchmaker, plays her to the hilt. Tevye’s three oldest daughters — Kelley Abell as Tzeitel, Jazmin Gorsline as Hodel and Brooke Singer as Chava — form a fine sibling bond. Skyler Adams, lean and off-kilter, is an ideal Motel, the nerdy little tailor who marries Tzeitel and becomes a mensch. Jim DeSelm is a forceful, sensitive Perchik, the revolutionary student who marries Hodel. Matthew R. Jones gave a fine account of the butcher, Lazar Wolf (the role Girolmo ordinarily plays). Sarah Bockel and Hannah Corneau are standouts in the dream scene. And the chorus of male dancers is outstanding.
Kevin Depinet’s set, with its heavy timber frame and a village landscape like a prayer shawl with strings, is pure poetry. And when it disappears as the Jews of Anatevka disperse in the final scene — headed to America, the Holy Land, beyond — the emptiness is palpable.