By Sue Suchyta
The Players Guild of Dearborn hits a high note with its 81st season finale, the audience-pleasing musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” With an enthusiastic, multi-generational cast, talented singing, acting and dancing, and colorfully crafted costumes and sets, the show is a crowd pleaser, and packed the house its first two weekends.
Set in Russia in 1905, “Fiddler on the Roof” focuses on Tevye, a poor dairyman, and his efforts to maintain his family and religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. With a down-to-earth sense of humor and amusing one-way chats with God, Tevye tries to make sense of a changing world as his three oldest daughters’ choices of husbands stray farther away from their established norms. Faced with the even bigger threats of the tsar’s edicts, their future becomes as shaky as the emblematic fiddler on the roof.
Director Bob Jones, who assistant-directed the Guild’s 1986 production of “Fiddler,” has assembled a large and enthusiastic cast and added his own personal touches to this production. Mike Moseley inspires the talented troupe with his affable and appealing portrayal of Tevye. He is well paired with Sally Hart Goodman as Golde, who provides a strong counterpart to Moseley’s ready repartee.
The story moves quickly, and from the opening number, “Tradition,” which brings everyone on stage, audiences will be hard pressed to pick their favorite scene. Tevye’s dream, filled with spirits rising from the dead, showcases the talented chorus, as well as the makeup and character acting talents of Margaret Winowiecki as Fruma-Sarah. Tzeitel’s wedding, with its starry sky and enthusiastic dancing, tugs at the heartstrings with the familiar song, “Sunrise, Sunset,” and once again showcases the strong and versatile chorus.
Choreographer Laura Tyler accomplished a minor miracle and produced delightful dances that included actors of widely varying footwork skills, a challenging rehearsal schedule, and a stage area that shrank every time new set pieces were added. In the wings, musical director Ken Pletzer keeps the cast in tune with each other.
The audience will enjoy the special touches that Anatevka brings into their lives for the space of the show, from the moving Sabbath Prayer to the heart-wrenching finale. In between the joyful songs, high-spirited dances and the humorous vignettes, we lose our hearts to a stalwart village of survivors clinging to their faith, family, neighbors and ethnic identity.
You’ll laugh when Perchik, played by Nathan Napier, teaches Hodel, played by Anna Hnatiuk Dewey, to dance, and you will enjoy their strong vocal duets as well.
Sydnee Dombrowski brings Tzeitel to life with both a sense of humor and passion as she struggles between her family’s expectations and her own hopes and dreams. Veteran Brian Townsend makes the role of Motel, the timid tailor, memorable and endearing.
Guild grand dame Diana Reynolds reprises the role of Yente the Matchmaker with humor and dignity. You’ll laugh at her matchmaking attempts as well as her well-delivered laugh lines. Talent is plentiful in the 43-person cast, from Tom Sparrow’s lonely Lazar Wolf to Westley Montgomery’s enigmatic Fiddler (and yes, he really plays that violin).
Others in the strong cast include: Maura Donovan as Chava; Maggie Donnelly as Shprintze; Emily Pletzer as Bielke; Tim Carney as Mordcha, the innkeeper; Val Sisto as the Rabbi; Jake Dombrowski as Mendel, the rabbi’s son; Patricia LaFramboise as Shaindel, Motel’s mother; Pat Landino as Avram, the bookseller; Kevin Rider as Nachum, the beggar; Matt Ripper as the constable; Joe Henkel as Fyedka; Jeff Lokken as Sasha; and James Kirwan as Yussel, the hatter.
The ensemble includes: Lauren Bjerk, Shelley Coulter, April Denny, Trisha Donnelly, Eric Floetke, Emily Jannaro, Jared Klann, Julienne Kobylasz, Debbe Lavely, Mellissa L’Heureux, Lindsay MacDonald, Stephanie Marengere, Natalie Napier, Scott Rider, Clare Russell, Charles Sell, Katie Suchyta, Benjamin Timpf and Emily Ward.
Special mention goes to Floyd Bell’s set design, Mary Calder and Kim Donovan’s costumes, the period props, the realistic beards, and the costumed stage crew who keep the show moving at a lively pace.
The show will run for two more weekends: May 8 to 10, and 15 to 17. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. Tickets are $18.
The Players Guild of Dearborn Theatre is at 21730 Madison in Dearborn, southwest of the intersection of Monroe and Outer Drive.
For more information, call the Guild ticket line at (313) 561-TKTS, or go to the Web site www.playersguildofdearborn.org.