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Some musicals have it all – a great story, sympathetic characters, terrific music, maybe even a positive message.
Moonlight Stage Productions offers one of the all-time greats – “Fiddler On The Roof” – through Aug. 11 at its renovated outdoor venue in Vista.
Tevye the milkman (David Ellenstein) lives in the small Russian shtetl of Anatevka at the beginning of the 20th century. He has a voluble wife named Golde (Victoria Strong) and five daughters – and spends a fair amount of time talking directly to God, musing about how nice life might be “If I Were A Rich Man” and fretting about the inevitable modernization that threatens long-held “Tradition.”
The show, with its script adapted by Joseph Stein from Sholem Aleichem’s stories about life in Jewish shtetls at the beginning of the 20th century, memorable tunes of Jerry Bock and lyrics of Sheldon Harnick, opened on Broadway in 1964 and ran more than eight years, picking up 10 Tonys (including one in 1972 for the longest-running musical) along the way.
“Fiddler” is the final production to be directed by the theater’s founder, Kathy Brombacher. She’d directed it in college and now brings her 32-year Moonlight career to a close with a fittingly lovely production.
Brombacher and company do the show proud, with uniformly excellent performances from a talented cast of 30-plus and a fine 20-member orchestra conducted by Elan McMahan.
Particularly outstanding in this production are the visuals, thanks in large part to lighting designer Jean-Yves Tessier, whose use of silhouettes and rich colors are especially effective.
Ellenstein, artistic director of Solana Beach’s North Coast Repertory Theatre, plays Tevye with a good deal of charm if not the best voice in the group. Especially effective are his “tradition vs. modernization” debates with himself when confronted with each daughter’s choice of a husband.
Strong is well-named: her Golde provides a bedrock of fine acting and lovely singing (especially in “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Sabbath Prayer”).
Other standouts are Charlene Koepf and Jason Webb, as Tevye’s studious daughter Hodel and the radical student Perchik; Susan E.V. Boland as Yente the matchmaker, and Danny Campbell as the laconic and witty rabbi.
A great show, fine direction, excellent cast, orchestra and technical work – what could be more fitting as a farewell to Vista’s theatrical magic maker Kathy Brombacher?
Thanks, Kathy. Vista will never forget you.
“Fiddler On The Roof” plays through Aug. 11 at Moonlight Stage Productions, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.
Wednesday through Sunday at 8 pm; third week, Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm.
For tickets, call 760-724-2110 or visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.