And if our good fortune never comes,
Here’s to whatever comes,
Drink l’chaim, to life!
Donald Westwood, executive producer of AIM Management’s Fiddler on the Roof introduced the show by thanking us, the audience, for “taking a chance” on the new company. Fiddler on the Roof is AIM Management’s inaugural production, and Westwood informed us we were pioneers with immense power over the future of the theatrical arts in Savannah (and, perhaps, the success of the company itself).
Well, if I do have any such power, I here use it to proclaim that AIM Management’s production of Fiddler on the Roof is entirely brilliant and a delight to watch. The story of Fiddler on the Roof is itself filled with poignancy and humour, yet it takes a passionate and talented cast to bring the tale’s evocation of family, community, human interaction, prejudice, oppression and, above all, love to life. Luckily for AIM Management (and the audiences), its performers, musicians, and stage crew have passion and talent to spare.
From my centre seat in the front row, I was able to watch both the musicians and the faces of the ensemble cast as well as the main characters, and it was a joy to see how dedicated the performers were and how much fun the musicians were having. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the musicians (when they weren’t busy playing beautifully, of course) watch the show and laugh along with the audience, despite the fact that they must have seen the show countless times in performances and rehearsals. There seemed to be a real camaraderie amongst the company (or else they’re even better actors than I thought). This not only made me miss my days of playing in a musical ensemble, but ensured I had to fight the urge to sneak on stage during the lyrical and heart-wrenching rendition of “Sunrise, Sunset”, because all I wanted at that moment was to be a part of the music and story.
Bruce Goldman as Tevye perfectly embodied the patriarch whose commitment to “Tradition!” and what “The Good Book says!” can always be adapted to accommodate his love for his family, while Thesa Loving’s talent came across beautifully during (though not only during) “Do You Love Me?” – one of my favourite songs. Joe Byrne’s depiction of the nervous yet optimistic Motel was highly entertaining, and Erin O’Neil, Shayna Albertson, and Nicole Brooke Brancucci’s voices shone as Tevye and Golde’s three eldest daughters. A special shout-out to Albertson, whose rendition of “Far From the Home I Love” (another favourite, along with “Sunrise, Sunset” and “To Life”) was striking.
Honestly, I can’t fault a single performer; even the minor characters were consistently focused, fun to watch, and had fantastic voices. I was able to get a photo with the hilarious Susan E. V. Boland (Yente); surely only good can come from being close to a matchmaker, right? I also chanced upon a photo with the charming Michael Kennan Miller (Fyedka), and must admit: if any man as gorgeous as that ever wants to whisk me off my feet, I too will go against my father’s wishes in order to be so whisked. (Michael, if you ever do get to visit Australia, let me know and I’ll be delighted to show you around… or at the very least give you some pointers so that you don’t make such horrible mistakes as saying “aluminum” instead of “aluminium”.)
As someone who’s spent a large portion of her life playing musical intstruments, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the musicians who, though only 11 in number, created such a symphony of sound that one might have guessed them to be twice the size. (As an aside, I got some giggles out of being able to read the conductor’s sheet music. I thereby knew not only when each significant song was being played, but when the music was for “Tevye’s Monologue”, “Final Scene – Underscoring”, or “Bows”. I had a chat with the lovely (and rather cute) conductor, Samuel Clein, who has a spot in my heart for having conducted several Sondheim musicals in the past, including Into the Woods. Samuel, if you ever put on Assassins, can I come and be your page turner? Please? I’ll also bake delicious brownies.
The dancing and choreography were great fun to watch, particularly during “To Life” and the Bottle Dance at Tzeitel and Motel’s wedding. From the kookiness of “The Dream” and the power behind “Tradition” to the joyful “Miracle of Miracles” and the moving strains of “Anatevka”, the performers and musicians gifted the audience with nearly three hours of wonderful song, harmony, laughter and, of course, entertainment.
I had no idea Fiddler on the Roof would be playing in Savannah during my time here, and as the company only put on four shows at The Lucas Theatre, I feel incredibly lucky that it was. Thank you to the ensemble for a wonderful afternoon, and I hope to see you all touring in Australia soon. Remember – delicious brownies.