Pin It
Favorite

Overstuffed 

The canvas here is too small for a big musical like Fiddler. But colorful details will still catch your eye.

click to enlarge Golde (Renei Yarrow), left, and Tevye (Steve Kane) argue in Fiddler. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Golde (Renei Yarrow), left, and Tevye (Steve Kane) argue in Fiddler.

Big musical, small stage: You’re not going to get epic dimensions when Coeur d’Alene’s community theater does Fiddler on the Roof.

“Tradition” — the opening number, with all the mamas and the papas and the kids of the village of Anatevka spilling onto Lake City’s smallish stage — looks more like rush hour chaos than artful choreography. (It’s incredible how they manage to drag that dairy cart out of the wings.) And the show’s final scene doesn’t depict all the Russian villagers trudging off into an uncertain future with all their possessions piled atop creaky carts. There’s simply no room. Instead, everybody sort of shuffles on and off, uncomfortably.

There are other disadvantages of doing a big show in a small house. Four musicians — even when led by talented workhorse Carolyn Jess, who deserves more credit for music-directing as many shows as she does — are never going to sound like a Broadway orchestra. And a large cast digs too deep into local acting reserves: Some of the supporting parts are performed by theatrical newbies, and it shows.

So: A definitive Fiddler? Far from it. But director Abbey Crawford’s production at Lake City Playhouse features some successes: a couple of strong central performances, a couple of effective smaller scenes, and a couple of large-group scenes that are effective despite the physical constraints.

Take, for example, Tevye’s farewell to his daughter Hodel, who’s leaving the village to join her husband in Siberia. Tevye, the central character, is a poor dairyman who struggles to raise five daughters in Czarist Russia even as Jewish traditions start to break down all around him.

Just prior to the danced dream sequence, Cara Bray sings “Far From the Home I Love” with an affecting combination of nostalgia and determination while her onstage father — Steve Kane as Tevye — gets all watery-eyed. It’s an example of an intimate, two-character scene that a small theater can get right. And when choreographer Ali Waid, given adequate space onstage, directs dancers in the “little Chaveleh” dream sequence right afterwards, Crawford’s performers nail it.

Kane does best with Tevye’s sarcastic digressions during his spot-lit, narrative prayer-asides. The tragic moments — the breakup of the family, the onset of the pogroms — are less persuasive. But Kane can belt Tevye’s longing for the good life, both in “If I Were a Rich Man” and in the barroom belligerence of “L’Chaim.” It’s a likable performance.

As Golde (the mother who only wants nice, rich husbands for her daughters), Renei Yarrow strikes a good balance between hilarity and the sense that she wants the best for her family.

Even some of the overcrowded scenes work well. “Tevye’s Dream” (meant to hoodwink his own wife about the proper suitor for one of their daughters) is portrayed with half the cast wearing ghostly robes and little kids popping into view, dressed as freakish goblins. It’s an unsettling moment that’s also funny — and evidence that large-scale scenes aren’t impossible to do at Lake City.

Besides, Fiddler is such a rock-solid show that nearly any performance is worth viewing. I overheard two middle-aged playgoers saying that this was their first onstage Fiddler since their school years. A good reminder for them.

Just last year, two of the three men who combined to create Fiddler — composer Jerry Bock and book writer Joseph Stein — died in their old age. But their accomplishment outlives them, and a community-theater production like Lake City’s, despite its flaws and cramped conditions, still helps perpetuate a great show. Tevye doesn’t want us scoffing at tradition.

Fiddler on the Roof • Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Oct. 9 • $19; $17, students and military; $15, seniors; $10, student rush; $9, children • Lake City Playhouse • 1320 E. Garden Ave., Coeur d’Alene • lakecityplayhouse.org • (208) 667-1323

  • Pin It

Speaking of Lake City Playhouse, theater

  • Knickers in a Twist
  • Knickers in a Twist

    Ignite! is staging The Underpants, a farce that skewers fame, conformity and convention
    • Apr 22, 2015
  • Uncivil Society
  • Uncivil Society

    In God of Carnage, two couples meet to discuss their kids — and then the kid gloves come off
    • Apr 1, 2015
  • Creeping Out
  • Creeping Out

    Sex and science collide in Stage Left's locally written new comedy
    • Feb 18, 2015
  • More »

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Vision Quest
  • Vision Quest

    Philosophy meets style in Spokane artist Ben Joyce's work, and the world has taken notice
    • Apr 29, 2015
  • The West Central Way
  • The West Central Way

    Spokane Gives Week comes to West Central, revealing a spirit of service
    • Apr 29, 2015
  • Why We Run
  • Why We Run

    Bloomsday 2015: A sampling of what drives people to put one foot in front of the other, on Bloomsday or any other day
    • Apr 29, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
New Work by 10 Artists

New Work by 10 Artists @ Art Spirit Gallery

Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through May 9

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Michael Bowen

Most Commented On

  • Machines That Kill

    Cars get us where we need to go — and they do a whole lot worse
    • Apr 22, 2015
  • The West Central Way

    Spokane Gives Week comes to West Central, revealing a spirit of service
    • Apr 29, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation