Fiddler on the Roof

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A little cartoonish, a little ridiculous, but also a little sweet here and there, Tuacahn’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is liable to charm audiences by sticking pretty close to the traditional show everyone’s familiar with, while still making some use of the spectacular outdoor red-rock theater.

Tuacahn forces its directors to incorporate the expensive flash-flood special effect into at least one show every year. This time, “Fiddler” got the shaft (only, I’m guessing, because no one could figure out a way to work a flood into “The Music Man”), and director Tim Threlfall does what he can to include it in as honest a way as possible.

Still, it’s a senseless addition that makes the show’s climax far more melodramatic than it should be. Tuacahn needs to get over the fact that they have a flash-flood effect, and only use it when the situation warrants it. If anyone’s buying tickets just to see the stage get covered in water, well, they need to re-think their theater-going priorities.

On the other hand, the dream sequence — in which Tevye (Lowell V. Noel) convinces Golde (Cathy Gene Greenwood) to bypass traditional matchmaking methods and let Tzeitel (Katharine Matis) marry Motel (Joey Khoury) — has never been more chilling. Groups of white-masked ghouls dance around, flourescent, shrieking ghosts appear out of nowhere, and a sheet of water, colored by light, blasts up in the background. It’s spectacle, not just for spectacle’s sake, but because the scene calls for whatever extravagence is possible. At Tuacahn, that’s a lot.

Lowell V. Noel is uneven as Tevye, the happy, complaining turn-of-the-century Russian Jew who must decide which traditions can be modified to fit the changing times, and which must be adhered to. He’s cartoonish at times — specifically, he’s Fred Flintstone, bellowing “Gol-DE!” instead of “Wil-MA!” — but he also makes some nice switches when the mood turns serious and he deals with conflicts with his love-struck daughters.

His train-station scene with Hodel (Melinda Larson), leaving to visit her imprisoned fiance Perchik (Javen Tanner) in Siberia, is genuinely touching. He and Cathy Gene Greenwood as Golde also break down their Ralph-and-Alice-Kramden relationship long enough to do a very sweet “Do You Love Me?” number.

The acting in general is broad (perhaps a natural tendency on that huge stage out in the canyon); the biggest perpetrator there is Yente the matchmaker (Terry Palasz), who says almost all of her lines directly to the audience. Others do this occasionally, too, and all of the daughters seem to lose their Russian accents when they sing. The Rabbi (Daniel Law) is goofy, too, an outrageously old and stooped figure who looks like a guy in disguise.

Generally, though, the show does what it’s supposed to, and the bigness of the production doesn’t limit its intimacy. “To Life” is exuberant and wild; “Sunrise, Sunset” is melancholy and wistful. There are just enough you’ll-only-see-this-at-Tuacahn elements to make it worth seeing here as opposed to somewhere else.

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