Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia's current production of the classic Broadway musical "Fiddler On the Roof" gets everything right in its glowing celebration of tradition.
Here, a close-knit family of seasoned professionals achieves theater excellence as they tell the story of dairyman hero Tevye, struggling to maintain his beloved traditions amid the changing values of his five daughters, each of whom needs a husband.
This family's story is told against the backdrop of tiny village Anatevka's Jewish community working to survive Czarist Russia.
Directors and choreographers David James and Tina DeSimone (who also plays Tzeitel), use Toby's in-the-round space to good effect, accenting its intimacy to bring warmth, exuberance and family closeness to all scenes. Their choreography is alive with tradition — often shown in Jewish dance, most notably the Bottle Dance, perfectly executed by six men with bottles balanced on top of their heads as they dance and slide along the floor.
The mood begins from the opening scene, as cast members enter holding hands, moving joyously and smoothly to the infectious rhythms of "Tradition" to welcome us. First established by David Bosley-Reynolds as Tevye in a memorable solo, the warmth continues through all the familiar numbers.
Pianist Doug Lawler conducts a musical ensemble of keyboards, trumpet, clarinet and percussion to deliver each song, from the wistful "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and iconic "If I Were a Rich Man" to the poignant "Sunrise, Sunset" and beyond, each a delight to our ears and hearts.
The success of any "Fiddler" production depends on the actor cast as Tevye, and Toby's has one of the best ever in David Bosley-Reynolds, reprising the role he has played on this stage before.
In fact, before the performance, I asked Bosley-Reynolds how many times he has played Tevye, and he said this marks his eighth. Together we recalled his earliest performances at the Chesapeake Music Hall near the Bay Bridge about 15 years ago. His is the Tevye that all others must measure against, and invariably they fall short.
Bosley-Reynolds continues to find new facets in a role that fits him as comfortably as Tevye's prayer shawl. His warm baritone is ideally suited to the repertoire, making "Tradition" his own, and investing his "Do You Love Me?" duet with Golde with a distinctive romantic glow.
Important as the signature songs, Bosley-Reynolds' characterization gives every encounter with his daughters, his wife, Golde, with butcher Lazar-Wolf and others believable restraint, with sensitive shading and nuance.
Bosley-Reynolds has a talented ensemble of actors with which to interact. Golde is convincingly played by Jane Boyle, who possesses a beautiful singing voice and embraces the role of sensible mother and wife.
Outstanding among the five daughters is DeSimone as Tzeitel, delivering a delightful "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," complete with nifty dance moves and a hilarious impersonation of Yente. Tzeitel conveys her love for destitute tailor Motel, ruling out any possibility of an arranged marriage with smitten suitor Lazar Wolfe.
DeSimone is the perfect match for David James' Motel, their voices perfectly matched in "Miracle of Miracles."
Second daughter Hodel is played by Debra Buonaccorsi, whose brightness and sharp tongue is a fitting match for Shawn Kettering as Perchik, the radical who sees injustices in the world and wants to change them. Kettering conveys the complex facets of the rebel who sweeps away traditions and goes off to Siberia. Buonaccorsi's singing of "Far From the Home I Love" is another musical peak in an evening of highs.
Played by Katie Heidbreder, Chava is the third daughter, gentle and studious, who falls in love with Russian soldier Fyedka, played by Jeffrey Shankle. Shankle sings a splendid "To Life," combined with a Russian "Nas Drovia" song conveying similar thoughts in Hebrew and Russian.
Other noteworthy cast members include Susan Porter as Yente, Heather Marie Beck raising her lovely voice as Fruma Sarah, Ray Hatch as the silent Fiddler, Alan Hoffman as the rabbi who has a prayer for every occasion, Larry Munsey as a fearsome constable and Matt Greenfield as a charming Mendel.