Few Broadway-born musicals contain such extreme levels of joy and sorrow as “Fiddler on the Roof,” the Tony award-winning show from 1964 that’s still a major force among touring productions.
It’s back again, in a two-week engagement at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, in a version that seems darker than usual both in tone and in texture. Despite the fragmentary nature of its settings, this “Fiddler” projects an aura of stark reality.
Individual performances are poignant, but the show’s most impressive moments arrive in the ensemble segments’ such as “To Life” with its energetic choreography and “Tevye’s Dream,” a nightmarish sequence with an exceedingly overarching specter.
Tevye himself, the overworked dairyman whose daughters challenge the established tradition of matchmaking, is vibrantly interpreted by Yehezkel Lazarov, perhaps a bit young for the role but a force nevertheless. Lazarov infuses this well-known character with large quantities of strength and conviction.
As his long-suffering and humorless wife, Golde, Maite Uzal projects a strong figure who brooks no nonsense and yields only reluctantly to sentiment in the tender “Do You Love Me?” duet.
Particularly impressive in this production are Mel Weyn as Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeitel, and Jesse Weil as her beloved tailor. Weyn enthralls and Weil delights in his celebratory number “Miracle of Miracles.”
By contrast, the romance between Hodel (Ruthy Froch) and the scholarly visitor Perchik (Ryne Nardecchia) is almost intentionally bland, bolstered by Froch’s mournful “Far From the Home I Love” lament.
The “last straw” in Tevye’s string of setbacks is aptly enacted by Natalie Powers as third daughter Chava and Joshua Logan Alexander as her non-Jewish lover.
Strong support is delivered by Jonathan von Mering as the butcher who covets Tzeitel, Carol Beaugard as the chatty matchmaker and Michael Hegerty as the wise-but-taciturn rabbi.
Carolyn Keller revels in her dream segment as Golde’s grandmother, as does Olivia Gjurich as the ghost of Von Mering’s “elevated” first wife. Director Sari Ketter, inspired by the original staging of Bartlett Sher, and choreographer Christopher Evans, reconstructing Hofesh Shechter's original dance moves, have fashioned a fine, flavorful interpretation of this 55-year-old modern legend, which should be enlightening audiences for another half century.
If You Go
What: “Fiddler on the Roof”
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Thursdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30, Sundays at 1 and 6:30 until May 19
Cost: Start a $39
Call: (714) 556-2787 or scfta.org
Tom Titus reviews local theater for TimesOC.