Written by 5:50 am fullerton, Musical, Review, The Electric Company, Theater, Uncategorized

The Electric Company Theatre presents: Fiddler on the Roof @ Muckenthaler Cultural Center – Review

photo by Katie Mooney

Written by Zach Johnston

Upon arriving at the The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, a warm amber light glows beneath a large oak tree in the distance. You make your way across the grass, pass through the threshold of the surrounding partition, and enter the village of Anatevka. This is the beloved home of Tevye and his family and, of course, the setting of the timeless classic Fiddler on the Roof. This unique outdoor experience from The Electric Company Theatre takes this treasured musical to a new level of immersive storytelling.

At first glance, it all looks simple: just a small enclosed performance space, modest lighting, and some chairs. But there is an intimacy to this production that begins the moment you arrive and carries throughout the whole experience as the cast and crew tell a story of love and perseverance.

Director Brian Johnson leads his cast as Tevye, a poor milkman living in a small Jewish village in western Russia during a time of growing uncertainty for his community. Their customs and culture make up an enormous part of the community’s identity, but as the times change, so do the attitudes and desires of some villagers. Tevye and the other elders must confront these changes for the sake of the community while staying true to their heritage, which is increasingly under threat.

Johnson perfectly embodies the charismatic yet rigid nature of Tevye. From his bubbly performance of “If I Were a Rich Man,” to his stern displays of authority as a father of five, Johnson delivers a sense of joy and paternal nurturing that encompasses this show’s humble narrator.

As Tevye’s three oldest daughters approach adulthood, they make their reluctance toward a traditional arranged marriage known. Andrea Dodson Ewing (Tzeitel), Lindey VanGerpen (Hodel), and Aimee Ordaz (Chava) all display a unique and developed relationship with the family as the conflict sets in. Their impressive harmonies are also fully represented in songs like “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”

photos by Dave Smithson

In lieu of any elaborate stagecraft, Johnson’s scenic design relies on minimalistic details and versatile set pieces. Quaint little houses suspended from the tree branches create the sense of a sprawling village setting. Lighting design by Matt Mankiewicz employs specific color changes that perfectly invoke the story’s emotions.

There is a magic to the way the actors utilize the small space and play off the technical components that overscores the simplicity of the presentation.

As an audience member, you find yourself intertwined with the performers seated alongside you. This allows for a steady pace of the performance and an immersive dynamic that plays into the show’s themes of familial love. Many ensemble cast members take on multiple parts and display an unyielding commitment to their performance, no matter the role.

This is also true of the show’s orchestra members, who at times enter as characters. Julian Rymar provides orchestral direction while on the clarinet and even incorporates live music into his portrayal of one of the villagers. These unconventional but carefully crafted details carry the production through to the end.

Altogether, this company displays an impressively rehearsed staging of this classic Broadway hit while finding ways to breathe new life into a decades-old story of confronting inevitable change.

Fiddler on the Roof plays at The Muckenthaler Cultural Center through March 6.

9.2 Overall
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Set & Design9.3
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Exceptional Show! OCR Recommended! Feb 12 – Mar 06, 2024

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