Skip to content Skip to footer

Review: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at Mon River Arts

By JADE GOODES

Mon River Arts takes on a classic musical filled with tradition in their current Fiddler on the Roof production. It’s easy to understand why this show is considered timeless with its themes of family, love, and courage in times of uncertainty. Mon River Arts’s production of this golden age musical is an enjoyable night of theater with stunning performances from the cast. 

Fiddler on the Roof is set in the small town of Anatevka during the last days of czarist Russia. Tevye, a poor milkman, lives with his five daughters and his wife, Golde, as they try to uphold the traditions and culture of the Jewish people in their community. Tevye and Golde’s daughters begin to rebel against these traditions as they forge their paths in life by following their hearts. As word spreads of Jewish people being forced out of their homes and towns, worry spreads that the same fate will befall Anatevka. Set against the pogroms that displaced countless Jewish people in the late 19th and early 20th century, Fiddler on the Roof highlights the cruelty Jewish people faced during this time.

Fiddler on the Roof plays at The Grand Theatre in Elizabeth. It’s a lovely space, but the stage itself is small, so it appears cramped when their 30+ cast members are on stage together. The space makes it difficult to appreciate the dance numbers and character work in large ensemble numbers. That being said, I enjoyed the set design and appreciated the house’s functionality. It added dimension to the stage and was an interesting way to engage with the set and take full advantage of the space provided. 

This production marks Director Art DeConciliis’ inaugural directing project with Mon River Arts. DeConsillis has been acting and directing in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 40 years. I appreciate his direction and eye in this production and found the relationships created between the characters one of my favorite aspects of the show. It made the heartfelt scenes more meaningful and helped me become more invested in the characters and their plight. 

Fiddler on the Roof has countless recognizable songs featured throughout the show. The opening number, “Tradition,” is an excellent introduction to the characters and the actors who will be taking on these roles. A number I’m always eager to see is the Wedding Dance, which features the notorious Bottle Dance. It’s always nerve-wracking to watch, but it’s a thrill when the men successfully complete it. Choreographer Krista Strosnider sticks heavily to the traditional dances typically found in Fiddler but adds some originality to them as well. I found the Fruma-Sarah/Nightmare scene to be unique. It ended up being one of my favorite numbers in the show, with its perfect blend of humor and spookiness. 

This production is filled with impressive performances from the ensemble to the leads. My favorite performance of the night was Dana DeFonso as Yente: her character voice, physicality, and mannerisms made for countless comedic moments in the show. Tevye’s three oldest daughters, played by Sarah HennessyDelaney Molnar, and Samantha Hawke, all gave stunning performances. Hawke gives an exceptionally moving performance during the heartbreaking “Far From The Home I Love.” Adyen FreedCarmen LoPreseti, and Tyler Prah deliver beautiful vocal performances as the three suitors. Christy Rodibaugh‘s performance as Golde was exceptional. I loved her rapport with Tevye and the daughters and appreciated her strong presence on stage. Ray Cygrumus leads the cast as Tevye. He delivers the most heartfelt moments on the show well. The most moving scenes in the show were the private moments between Tevye and his daughters, and Cygrumus handles these scenes with just the right amount of sincerity. He does a great job leading the cast with his vocals and the care he takes to show the complexities of Tevye as a character.

While this production hits the mark in the many ways, some moments were lacking for me as an audience member. Most of this could be chalked up to opening night mishaps and jitters, but this production feels unsure at the heart of its storytelling. The show does not lack talent; there are missed opportunities to create a truly memorable production. The show begins and ends on a high note, but I wish more care were taken to deliver that same energy and spirit throughout the entire production. Again, this should fix itself as the show progresses and the cast gets more comfortable in the show and their tracks. Overall, they have a great show. There’s simply minor work needed to turn this into a solid show from top to bottom. 

Fiddler on the Roof is a beautiful story with themes that are universal to every time and generation. Although these characters are fictional, the story itself rings true. Even sixty years later, this show still reflects the struggles, hardships, and injustices that people face today. Getting the tone and message of this show delivered correctly is imperative. It’s an important story that needs to be told, but if not told correctly, it doesn’t hold the same weight. 

Mon River Arts has a great production with Fiddler on the Roof. Besides some slight issues I found within the production, this is a show the whole family can enjoy while supporting local theater.

TICKETS AND DETAILS

M on River Arts’ production of Fiddler on the Roof runs through May 19, 2024 at the Grand Theastrer in Elizabeth, PA. . Tickets at: