2nd Star lends new energy to old favorite 'Fiddler on the Roof'

Tevye (left, played by Fred Nelson) discusses butcher Lazar Wolf's proposal with Wolf (played by Tim Sayles) during 2nd Star's production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at Bowie Playhouse.
Tevye (left, played by Fred Nelson) discusses butcher Lazar Wolf's proposal with Wolf (played by Tim Sayles) during 2nd Star's production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at Bowie Playhouse.(Photo for The Baltimore Sun by Bud Johnson)

Almost 50 years after its 1964 Broadway opening, composer Jerry Bock's and lyricist Sheldon Harnick's "Fiddler on the Roof" continues to touch hearts with its hero's adherence to cherished religious traditions.

The 40-member cast assembled by 2nd Star director Brian Douglas brings fresh life to the story of dairyman Tevye and his family, playing at Bowie Playhouse in Whitemarsh Park.

Having previously co-directed at 2nd Star, Douglas assumes his first full-fledged 2nd Star directing assignment with this production. In his director's notes, Douglas recalls that he acted in this show for a year as a teenager.

Douglas gets major help from music director Joe Biddle, now directing his fifth 2nd Star production and conducting a dozen musicians in the pit.

Assistant director and choreographer Christine Asero brings surprising energy to her dances despite limited floor space, and she signals her appreciation of Broadway choreographer Jerome Robbins' iconic creations — L'Chaim, wedding and Russian dances.

Among 2nd Star co-founder and president Jane Wingard's many contributions are her scenic design, her creation of authentic costumes for the large cast and her painting of the set. She has painted every set for the past six seasons.

Again, lighting designer Garrett Hyde lends his artistry to the production.

Together, crew and cast tell the story of Tevye, who endures poverty and adversity with wry humor and always treasures his Orthodox Jewish traditions. He wants to find suitable husbands for his five daughters so that they have a better life than he and his wife, Golde, share. However, his three marriage-age daughters rank love above prosperity in choosing husbands. Their choices force Tevye to balance adherence to strict rules against his loving concern for their happiness.

Bringing Tevye's story to life is favorite 2nd Star actor Fred Nelson in his third leading role with the organization. This challenging role comes with inevitable comparisons to Broadway stage and film actors who put their stamps on the role, most recently Harvey Fierstein. To these star performances must be added a number of local "Fiddler" productions featuring memorable Tevyes.

Having enjoyed several, I've come to expect Tevye to have a commanding presence nuanced by humility, an ability to summon credible devotion to his daughters, unshakable religious faith that includes frequent believable chats with God, and — at his essence — a wry sense of humor.

Nelson meets most requirements of the Tevye role. Displaying sharp comedic timing, his Tevye is engaging in his conversation with prosperous butcher Lazar Wolf (Tim Sayles), who wants to marry the eldest daughter, Tzeitel. Both actors bring vigor to their celebratory dance and later dancing and drinking with Russian soldiers at a village bar.

Although Nelson projects more anger than is usually seen, he conveys gentle respect for Golde (Andrea Bush), whom he convinces that Wolf is not a suitable mate for Tzeitel. Later, Tevye and Golde share a touching duet ("Do You Love Me?") that traces their 25 years in an arranged marriage.

Bush delivers a Golde who is bossy, superstitious and pragmatic, uneducated but wise, and stern but wholly devoted to her daughters. Bush has a pleasant singing voice and invests feeling in every song.

Tzeitel (Erin Lorenz) grows from a dutiful girl to a young woman who refuses marry an older man she does not love. Lorenz displays a lovely singing voice and has undeniable chemistry with tailor Motel (Stevie Mangum), both enchanting in their "Miracle of Miracles" duet.

Malarie Novotny offers a compelling portrayal of free-thinking Hodel, who is attracted to young revolutionary Perchik (Alex Meyer-Stokes) and chooses to leave her Anatevka home to join him in Siberia. Novotny creates a high musical moment when singing "Far From the Home I Love" as she says goodbye to her father.

Samantha Yangilmau makes her community theater debut as younger sister Chava, a studious, shy girl who falls in love with Fyedka, a Russian soldier who does not share her Jewish faith. Chava's marriage to Fyedka is one break with tradition that Tevye cannot accept.

The role of Fyedka is played by recent Arundel High School graduate Zac Fadler, an accomplished musical theater actor appearing in his 17th 2nd Star show. Zac will study musical theater at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts this fall.

Everyone in 2nd Star's large cast contributes to this show's success. Performances at Bowie Playhouse run weekends through June 30, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets, $20 for adults and $17 for seniors over age 60 or full time students, can be ordered by calling 410-757-5700.

Note: Pasadena Theatre Company has announced weekend performances June 29 through July 8 of "I Hate Hamlet" at Chesapeake Arts Center Studio 194. This comedy is about a young actor who moves to New York and is offered a chance to play Hamlet, a role he hates. His apartment becomes haunted by the intoxicated ghost of John Barrymore. Tickets, $15 for seniors and adults and $12 for students 18 and under, can be reserved at PTCshows.com or purchased at the door.