Fiddler on the Roof ““ delights through song, inspires through art

Fiddler on the Roof
Patrick Sawyer & Melissa Swift-Sawyer as Tevye & Golde in Fiddler on the Roof at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. Courtesy photo.

My parents were fairly strict about movies when I was a child, but the 1971 musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” was allowed in our home, and it became a childhood favorite. As a child, I also saw the play, and was enamored with it as well, so as you can imagine, I was looking forward to Candlelight’s production

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is in its fifth season, and the well-appointed theater is located in Johnstown, Colorado, just south of Loveland, near the famed Johnson’s Corner.

We saw “Fiddler” on a Thursday night, and much to my delight our drink server was Bren Eyestone Burron. I’m a big fan of Bren, who appeared in my favorite production of “Chicago” a number of years ago at Boulder’s Dinner Theater.

Bren convinced me to try the one of the show’s drink specials, but I failed to write down the name. It was a twist on a Cape Cod, and arrived with a garnish of freshly sliced apples. Candlelight’s specialty drinks are always a delight. Ryan ordered a margarita, and was disappointed that it arrived in a pint glass. However, the marg was quite tasty, despite the glass.

Candelight changes up their menu to complement the show, and for “Fiddler” they opted for stuffed cabbage rolls and roasted green peppers, in addition to a chicken and fish dish, as well as the upgrades.

The stuffed cabbage rolls were delicious, but the roasted green peppers with quinoa, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, feta cheese and onions, served with a potato latke and steamed vegetables is a real winner. It may be a vegetarian dish, but it’s so flavorful you won’t miss the meat. Ryan declared it was the tastiest meal he’d ever eaten at a dinner theater – high praise coming from a serious meat eater.

Once the show got underway, the audience was transported to Russia, where a tightknit Jewish community is faced with changing times. The most unique part of this production is the set. The set design was influenced by the work of artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985).

Chagall’s art has a childlike whimsy, and his most famous paintings were of Jewish villages. His work was bright and simple, filled with nostalgia and a slightly fantastical picture of his people and their ancient religion.

The Candlelight has brought this whimsical approach to the stage with a quirky set that serves as functional art. I’m not going to try to describe the set in this review, but it adds a wonderful sense of joy to this story.

For those unfamiliar with “Fiddler on the Roof,” it is the story of Tevye, the dairyman, his wife, Golde and his five daughters. Tevye and Golde are played by real life husband and wife Patrick Sawyer and Melissa Swift-Sawyer. Their onstage connection is palpable, and their duets are the best in the show.

The music and dancing in this production had the audience tapping their toes, and at times, even singing along. After all, “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset” are well-known and much-loved tunes.

As Tevye struggles to do what is right by his five daughters and by God, his good intentions are thwarted at every turn. His frustration comes out in song, and Patrick Sawyer’s portrayal of this exasperated father is truly moving.

I always talk about scene stealers when I write theater reviews, but Sawyer holds his own in this production of “Fiddler.” He is the star, and he lives up to the job. However, Barb Reeves as the matchmaker, Yente, has great comedic timing and managed to get the audience hooting with laughter on more than one occasion.

Despite being set in a Jewish community in Tsarist Russia, the 1964 musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” is timeless. We can all related to Tevye struggles with a changing world, and his desire to do the right thing, even when the right thing proves to be the most difficult.

With an inspired set and standout performances “Fiddler on the Roof,” at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, should be on your schedule this fall. It is playing now through October 28, 2012. Visit ColoradoCandlelight.com for show times and ticket information.

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