Fiddler on the Roof is in the canon of musicals commonly produced at community theaters, and it has been presented at several local stages in recent years. The Tulane Summer Lyric season-closer didn't imagine the Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock musical in a new light, but the solid production sated an audience excited about the traditional approach.
Things are changing for dairyman Tevye, his five daughters, wife and the other residents of their poor Russian shtetl. The three eldest daughters, approaching marriage age, have become taken with the new-world concepts of love and happiness. The villagers' way of life is threatened as Jews elsewhere are expelled from their homes in pogroms and similar "demonstrations" (as a Russian constable euphemistically puts it) in their town are on the horizon.
Tevye is the guide and comic relief for the audience, and the jolly Randy Cheramie is a fitting embodiment (he's played the role five times, most recently in the Jefferson Performing Arts Society's 2008 production). He jovially played to the audience in his frequent asides, but he also was successful in navigating Tevye's anger, caginess and fear. Some notes revealed some weaknesses in his singing voice, but as a character singer he was fine. And the audience loved him. Celeste Angelle Veillon was a fitting foil as his no-nonsense, but devoted, wife Golde.
The source of strife lies in Tevye's daughters, who have thwarted his and the nosy Yente's (a comic role handled ably by dialect pro Francine Segal) plans to land the girls their mates — the elder's selections are often, in their eyes, well-off mensches, but to the daughters they are undesirable old men. One suitor is the town butcher, Lazar Wolf, who Robert Pavlovich played as likable and sympathetic.
The girls go rogue and choose as husbands a poor tailor (an endearingly awkward Daniel Iwrey), a radical teacher (Colby McCurdy, a rich tenor costumed in a revolutionary's beret and fake mustache) and, most shocking, a gentile (Peter Elliott in a furry hat). The daughters, played by Ali Bloomston, Jenna Winston and Allie Zodin, comprise the emotional core of the show, especially Winston, whose voice made "Far From the Home I Love" particularly heartbreaking.
Company numbers like "Sabbath Prayer" were especially enjoyable due to the cast's quality singing and the live orchestra (although the cast seemed crowded on stage in the opener "Tradition"). Deft choreography for the "bottle dance" scene in the wedding scene that closed Act One provided some excitement.
Under the direction of Alton Geno, a missed fixture of the local theater scene who returned to town for the Tulane Summer Lyric series, the cast delivered on the classic material. But judging from the audience, who could be overheard talking excitedly about the show's "hits" like "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and "Sunrise, Sunset," it seems there's much value in tradition. — Lauren LaBorde