The fam and I saw Fiddler on the Roof at the Woodminster Amphitheatre this past week. We were all very excited to go because this is one of our favorite musicals, and I saw Tevye played by Topol on Broadway years ago, so it holds a special place in my heart. Also, we've never been to the Woodminster before, so this was going to be an 'adventure.' Maybe make it a family 'tradition' in the years to come.
Knowing we'd be outside, curtain is at 8pm, and it's in Oakland means we took blankets, jackets, and enough money to buy hot chocolate at intermission. I even took a pair of socks to wear with my sandals if need be! (My motto: function over fashion when it comes to heat)
Always trying to entertain the kids as inexpensively (and creatively) as possible, we took advantage of the 'Kids Come Free' program - one free child ticket for one paying adult ticket. So our family of four got in to see this fine musical for the price of two adult tickets. And excellent seats! We were in the fourth row... close enough to see the microphones in the actor's hair! Also, able to see the musicians in the orchestra pit. Yes, LIVE musicians at a musical! [Unfortunately, it's rare to have live music at musicals these days, so this was another treat.]
The 'main' actors in the cast are Equity (the Actor's union) and it shows. Bruce Winant as Tevye was excellent, and had BIG shoes to fill. I think most people know this show because of the movie, starring Topol. [Besides the movie, Topol played the starring role on Broadway for about 40 YEARS...yes, YEARS.] Winant comes as close as possible to filling Topol's shoes. An excellent singer, his acting was just as good (in musical theatre, it's hard to find a good singer AND actor, combined). The chemistry between Winant and Deborah Del Mastro, who plays Golde, his wife, was palpable - you might actually believe they're a real couple who've been married for 25 years.
The rest of the cast, which was large, was very good. All the singing was masterful. The choreography was pretty basic - traditional Jewish/folk dancing, with a highlight being the Russian characters performing the traditional 'Bottle dance' - and not one bottle fell! [Having a 'backstage/technical 'bent', I usually know how 'magic' on stage is performed, one way or another. In this production, I don't think they used any kind of trickery to keep the bottles on the dancers' heads.] Very well done.
Thankfully, the music never let you down; Richard Vetterli, the Music Director, should be applauded, along with the rest of the small orchestra.
Unfortunately, some technical problems took away from this particular night's production. There were some 'scratchy' mics, and a few lighting cues were (obviously) slow. In fact, some lighting cues didn't make sense at all, being dark when it should have been light, and vice versa. And the raffle at intermission just seemed to frustrate the patrons; while someone called numbers from the stage, the audience sat in complete darkness, struggling to read the minuscule print on our ticket to see if we won. The intermission raffle needs to be done better.
By Act 2, the socks were on; the blankets out and the hot chocolate (and popcorn) were met with shouts of gratitude. The second act was shorter than the first, but just as fun. It really is a lovely story, and this cast did a fine job.
The Woodminster Theatre's 'Summer Musicals' series continues with A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, and closes out the summer with Cats. If these two shows are as high caliber as Fiddler, (and I fully expect them to be), going to Oakland is now worth the drive. This summer series is definitely a treat for the ENTIRE family, and should not be missed!