In my four years here, the McMaster Musical Theatre has consistently offered creative, exciting, and moving adaptations. Each year, the performances have been a full body experience; a delight for the eyes, the ears, and the heart. This year, with a lovely rendition of Fiddler on the Roof, was no different. With great poignance and craft, MMT tells the tale of Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions while outside influences and times of change encroach upon their lives. Throughout the musical, the cast and crew skillfully unfold layer upon layer of the many relationships in the play, and reveal the complex and curious nature of the many different bonds that hold us together, and sometimes tear us apart.
The story takes place in the little fictional village of Anatevka against the backdrop of Tsarist Russia, circa 1905. It is a place where a promising marriage will determine a girl’s future happiness and security. Those marriages are decided upon by the families, with nudges from the matchmaker, requests from the wife, and the final decision made by the father. Of Tevye’s five daughters, the three eldest, in their own unique and honest ways, resist this tradition. And the result is a sophisticated and unpredictable vision of love – one that is constantly shifting, changing, and challenging accepted ideas. Can you love someone who’s dirt poor? Yes, because he’s your childhood friend. Can you love a political radical who finds all your customs and traditions outdated? Yes, because you have a unique intellectual connection. Can you love someone who’s outside your family’s faith – a faith that they have built their entire world around? Yes, because he likes books and you can talk about books together. Can you love someone you met for the first time on your wedding day? Yes, because you’ve shared a life with them for twenty-five years.
But this was not only a narrative of romantic love, because the most powerful bonds are the ones between family members. Jordan Hallin-Williamson is a kind, lovable, and patient Tevye, and he reveals the character’s vulnerabilities with both originality and thoughtfulness. Concetta Roche is an incredibly strong, but loving Golde, and creates a memorable portrait of a mother torn between the conflicting hopes she has for her daughters. In one particularly touching number, husband and wife shyly sing to each other about their quiet, but long-lasting love. Both sing beautifully, and together present a relationship that this is tired, but still sweet.
Other memorable aspects include the many facial expressions and hilarious lines from Yente (or the “matchmaker,” played by Lauren Tignanelli ) the palpable chemistry between the sisters, a dim stage lit up by candles, and the gorgeous sounds from both the live orchestra and the fiddler himself.
Shows continue on February 26, 27th, 28th, and March 1st at Robinson Memorial Theatre.