In his director’s notes, Steve Lloyd acknowledges the 1990 production of Fiddler on the Roof that ushered in his role as executive director at Haywood Arts Regional Theatre. He recounts the people who helped build the community within the theater and a Russian Folkmoot dancer named Boris, who defected to Waynesville and joined that cast near the end of the Cold War. Now, 27 years later, Fiddler is back on HART’s stage. The show runs through Sunday, July 30.
In its early years HART, which was founded in 1985, operated out of an old movie theater, comparable to the ramshackle homes of Anatevka, Russia, as seen in Fiddler. The current production is filled with brilliantly painted scenery and costumes from the theater’s massive stock. Lloyd directs this outing (having been in the cast of the 1990 iteration). It feels, in many ways, like an homage to the humble beginnings of HART, as well as a new benchmark for how far the company has come.
Daniel Hensley conducts a nimble orchestra through the show’s jaunty and somber songs. Fiddler, one of the all-time great Broadway musicals, is a moving tale of the hardships of Jewish villagers in Russia before the Russian Revolution. It foreshadows the tragedy the Jewish people would suffer at the hands of the Nazis decades later.
Jeff Streitfeld is Tevye, a poor farmer and father of five daughters. Streitfeld is a capable performer with a downtrodden look about him. He hefts his cart after his horse goes lame. He frets over why God would make life harder for someone as devout as he, but he goes on with good humor in spite of mounting conflicts that challenge his faith.
The show opens with the song “Tradition,” extolling the well-managed roles of men and women. Ironically, the rest of the show is about unspooling that tightly woven society. Tevye’s daughters defy their father and their faith by choosing to fall in love with men who do not meet Tevye’s approval.
Martine Rose, as Tzietal, refuses an arranged marriage and falls for Motel, a poor tailor played by Ryan Albinus, who is goofy and endearing. Rose’s Tzietal is excellent as a strong young woman who dares to follow her heart. Her sisters act similarly as Hodel (Kelsey Sewell) meets the revolutionary Perchik (Adam Lentini) and Chava (Sydney Lyles) finds herself drawn to the Russian soldier Fyedka (Charlie Cannon). Cannon particularly shines — his accent is spot on, and he clearly conveys his own conflict over the oppression he is forced to be a part of.
But ultimately the three sisters are the real story of the show, and all three actresses embody their roles with a palpable commitment.
Songs such as “If I Were a Rich Man” and “To Life” lift the show, while the solemn “Sabbath Prayer” and “Sunrise, Sunset” give the show an emotional weight.
HART staple Lyn Donnely is a solid center of support as Tevye’s wife, Golde. Strother Stingley is reliable as Lazar Wolfe, the butcher, who is jilted by Tzietal’s refusal of the arranged marriage. Tabitha Judy has a stellar moment in a dream sequence as the ghost Fruma Sarah. And, in a surprising nod, Steve Wall appears as the Rabbi, stepping into the role for an actor who fell ill. Wall played Tevye in HART’s original 1990 production.
WHAT: Fiddler on the Roof
WHERE: HART, 250 Piegeon St., Waynesville, hartheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, July 30. Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p,m. $27.82