The sublime new production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Music Circus gives the summer series its most poignant and affecting moment of the season.
The beleaguered dairyman Tevye, played by the gifted comic actor Bob Amaral, and Tevye's staunch wife, Golde, a moving and splendid Adrienne Barbeau, sit together assessing their life. They are modest working people who grew up never questioning the traditions now being assailed all around them.
In the charming song "Do You Love Me?" they ask, after 25 years of an arranged marriage: Do they love each other? With a line of wonderfully understated sentiment, Golde concludes, "I guess I do."
The longtime partnership of Tevye and Golde counterpoints the relationships of their daughters Tzeitel (Lauren T. Mack), Hodel (Leah Horowitz), and Chava (Kristen J. Smith), whose choices in husbands will challenge everything their parents believe.
Following one of the earliest rules of Broadway success, "Fiddler on the Roof" tells its audience early on what the show is about: tradition.
We hear and see it in the heartfelt musical's very first song as Amaral's Tevye and the villagers of Anatevka in 1905 czarist Russia tell us what keeps them going. Specifically Jewish and Old World traditions such as matchmaking, which makes the problem of finding the right mate as much a business venture as a love match.
The three eligible daughters increasingly test their parents' convictions, as first Tzeitel asks her father's permission to marry the tailor Motel (Allen E. Read) for love, rejecting a more profitable match with the successful local butcher. Then Hodel tells Tevye she doesn't need his permission to marry Perchik (Jordan Bondurant), a politically active student. Finally, Hodel takes an unthinkable step with Fyedka (Will Taylor), who is not of their faith.
The book by Joseph Stein, with music by Jerry Block and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, are based on stories by Sholem Aleichem. While marriages in the show symbolize the characters' changing world, the impeccable marriage of performers Amaral and Barbeau elevates the production with their complementary strengths. Amaral mines Tevye's bemused comic Jewish blues while Barbeau offers a determined, soulful life partner.
Musical director Jeff Rizzo deftly leads the orchestra through the rich score, which includes some of the more elegant underscoring you will hear, and there's solid singing up and down the cast. Master puppeteer Richard Bay created the humorous puppets, and Bob Richard choreographed the celebratory dance sequences. Director Glenn Casale creates a simple but actively emotional world for this most satisfying production.
The world hasn't stopped changing, so the themes of "Fiddler" continue resonating as cultural touchstones are still tightly grasped or roughly overturned when they can't or shouldn't be sustained.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
What: The classic musical about the travails of dairyman Tevye and his family in czarist Russia. With Bob Amaral and Adrienne Barbeau. Glenn Casale directs.
Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
When: 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. today and Saturday; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday (last show)
Time: Two hours and 45 minutes including one intermission.
Information: Call (916) 557-1999, online at www.tickets.com, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.