We all know the story and have seen the movie and/or the play "Fiddler on the Roof" at one time or another. The staff and students at Okoboji Summer Theatre took the familiar story to a new level this week.
The stark beauty of the set by Kenneth George greeted us as we took to our seats. (By the way Mr. George, I would love to have that stage floor in my living room!) Anatevka was a small, poor Jewish village in Russia as the Russian Revolution was rearing its ugly head (1905). The change of locations from Tevye's home to the town square and local tavern were handled smoothly thanks to the creative set design. We felt completely at home in all parts of that village.
I believe Rob Doyen was born to play Tevye. He spoke and sang his way into our hearts from the minute he appeared on stage. In the opening scene, as we were gazing at him pulling his wooden cart down the winding wooden slope, the cart's wheel caught the edge; bringing the cart crashing to the stage floor. Doyen didn't blink an eye but merely ad-libbed a funny line or two and continued right on with the show. That is professionalism at its best. He made it look so much a part of the show that many people in the audience at intermission couldn't decide if it was an accident or not.
Doyen soon had us feeling so bad for him as his world based on tradition was coming apart at the seams. We all wept inside as he made the very tough decision to flee with his family to the United States, where Jewish people could find a safe haven from the revolution. Our hearts broke for him having to leave some of his children behind.
Isabel Middleton-Watts portrayed his wife Golde. She was excellent in the role. Only a college student herself, she gave the older woman role great depth. I do wish the makeup people could have enhanced her age more so she didn't look so much like her daughters.
The daughters did an awesome job. I could listen to Chelcie Abercrombie (Hodel) sing all day long. What a beautiful, powerful voice she has. Also giving fine "daughter" performances were Mycah Westhoff, Shannon Cox, Melissa Trierweiler and Marley Wake. They sang and danced and acted like the pros they aspire to become after college.
Zack Huels was adorable as Motel. He has a beautiful voice and dances well in addition to his acting skills.
The large cast of 16 students, five professional actors and one guest actor filled the stage with amazing talent. There was no weak spot on opening night.
Director and choreographer Allison Bibicoff gets a much deserved standing ovation from me. She had a large cast, a small stage and lots of dancing to weave into the show. The audience was aware that Russians dance down on their haunches and do lots of kicking. She really needed a much bigger stage but performed her miracles. The dancing scenes were extremely well done! I really enjoyed the four young men dancing with the wine bottles on top of their caps. Kicking from a squatting position and not losing that bottle was a feat rewarded by loud applause and cheers from us in the seats. We knew those bottles weren't glued to the caps, but whatever gimmick they used to make that dance work....bravo!
Steve Taft certainly portrayed a formidable Constable. He looked so stern even though he seemed to have a soft spot in his heart for the Jewish community as they fled to all parts of the world to escape the Revolution.
I did not recognize the Rabbi until I checked my program after the show. Lakes Area attorney Jon Martin portrayed the religious leader of the community. His demeanor, costume and make up were so well done that Jon was unrecognizable. He played the role well, too.
I am sorry to say "Fiddler on the Roof" is the final show of the 2015 summer season. All tickets for all seven performances were sold out before opening night. It was a marvelous production, extremely well executed by all the many people involved on stage and behind the scenes.
Thank you OST for an outstanding season. It is hard to imagine we have to wait until next June for another show; that seems so far away. Thank you for the memories. June 2016 can't come fast enough!