There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
A known quantity can be a good thing, when it’s also a substantial quantity, and with his handsome staging of Fiddler on the Roof for the Olney Theatre Center, director John Vreeke makes it plain that this is one Broadway classic deserving the name. He’s got help, of course: No less substantial an actor than Rick Foucheux—that sly, subtle veteran of Shakespeare and Albee and Mamet and more—has been enlisted to play Tevye, the put-upon Russian Jewish paterfamilias who sings his famous paean to “Tradition,” then promptly finds himself swept up in an avalanche of social change. (Tutors preaching revolution, daughters angling to marry for love rather than at the matchmaker’s bidding, politics and pogroms undermining decades of hard-won peace with the neighbors—it’s been a hell of a year in Anatevka.) And Olney’s production budget puts a cast approaching 30 at Vreeke’s disposal, which means hair-raising harmonies, reasonably convincing crowd scenes, and rousing production numbers. Standout singers among the shtetl swarms include D.C. musical-theater favorites like Sherri Edelen (as Tevye’s unrelenting nag of a wife) and Jenna Sokolowski (as Hodel, the daughter who falls for the revolutionary), plus an entertainingly smooth New Yorker (Paul Downs Colaizzo) who’s been booked in to play the provocative boundary-pusher Perchik. But it’s not just the voices: The plot has a gratifying richness of texture (even if it simultaneously seems a trifle episodic, derived as it is from an assortment of Sholem Aleichem’s well-loved tales), and the tunes, from “If I Were a Rich Man” to “Sunrise, Sunset,” are sturdy, time-tested musical-theater artifacts that somehow don’t feel much dated. There are intriguing directorial touches, notably the one that keeps Andrew Zox’s jaunty Fiddler capering at the edge of the action like some elemental trickster, a Pied Piper of Anatevka, perhaps, at once haunting Tevye’s dreams and anchoring him in the bedrock of that all-important tradition. Most critical is Vreeke’s knack for taste and tone: There’s nothing kitsch about this Fiddler. It’s as serious, and as substantial, as Foucheux’s brooding, thoughtful, tremendously human hero.