Since “Fiddler on the Roof” first was produced on Broadway in 1964, it has been so popular that its music and story of human strengths have become part of our cultural fabric: “Tradition,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “To Life …”
Theater companies around the world produce it and audiences come with children and grandchildren to see it over and over, reliving a piece of history for many families with Russian ancestors.
Phamaly, a theater company for actors with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities, has chosen it as the 2013 summer musical production and delivers a lovely, well-paced musical through Aug. 11 at Denver Center for the Performing Arts, with fine voices and nice staging, directed by Steve Wilson. Choreographed by Debbie Stark, with musical direction by Donna Debreceni, it speaks to spirit and strength.
Russian painter Marc Chagall’s “The Fiddler” and other like images in his work are cited as inspiration in an online history of the musical, based on Sholem Aleichem’s story, “Tevye’s Daughters” or “Tevye the Milkman.” Of special note in this production are mother and son fiddlers: Sophia Hummel, a student at San Francisco Conservatory, plays with a special bowing device because her right arm is amputated below the elbow, and 11-year-old Leslie Wilburn, concertmaster in the Denver Young Artists Orchestra, is polished and assured as he appears more frequently than is usual in “Fiddler” productions.
Mark Disette is playing Tevye a second time for Phamaly, and portrays the milkman’s mixture of stubbornness and good humor skillfully. We can relate to this traditional Papa with stubborn daughters — and Rachel Van Scoy, Kenzie Kilroy and Lindsay Palmer as the marriageable daughters are charming and determined.
Kathleen Traylor, an original Phamaly member, plays the conservative mother/wife Golde and Ashley Kelashian takes over the stage when she appears as the village matchmaker Yente.
The “Tevye’s Dream” sequence is especially imaginative, with Grandma Fruma in a flying wheelchair.
This is an ideal play for a family outing with all but the littlest people. It offers a fine production of a story everyone should know, with clever staging and a lively band — and an introduction to some very courageous performers.