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Theater | STAGE REVIEW

Crowd Control

Big cast is no problem in OCC's 'Fiddler on the Roof,' which also has big heart.

July 23, 1998|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Fiddler on the Roof" is a good example of how a simple, well-honed musical can make for a bang-up theater evening without helicopters landing on stage, oceans of subterranean fog or a streetful of spiky barricades.

That's especially apparent when "Fiddler" is presented with such affection and charm as it is in the warm staging at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. The production marks the revival of OCC's summer musicals program, which has been dormant for a few years, and bodes well for the program's future.

It is a large company--almost 50--sometimes nearly overflowing the stage, giving the small Russian village of Anatevka the look of an ebbing and flowing citizenry that many productions of "Fiddler" don't achieve. Especially in the crowd scenes, director Phyllis B. Gitlin has staged the show with a sure eye for the visual possibilities of a cast this fulsome. She gives a proper shape to each moment, from the largest to the most intimate.

Alan Remington's musical direction also is impressive, with a bright-sounding orchestra and an understanding of the score's moods. Daniel R. Trevino's vocal musical direction keeps the chorus work tight and energetic.

The voices are well-matched to the sense of time and place, from Michael Ross' sonorous baritone as the patriarch Tevye to Bryan D. Woods' high silver-plated, authentically Russian tenor floating above everything else.

Any production of "Fiddler" needs a strong Tevye, and Ross' interpretation is not only audience friendly but also full of humor, apparent event through Tevye's moments of irascibility.

Nanci Fast is a good match as Tevye's starchy but loving wife, Golde, and as the couple's five daughters--Elizabeth A. Bouton (Tzeitel, the eldest), Melissa J. Cook (Hodel), Darcy Blakesley (Chava), Anne Brashier (Shprintze) and Jessica Seely (Bielke)--are all focused and charming.

Bouton is notable for a solid transition from girlish adoration of Motel the tailor to warm sureness as his loving wife. Aaron M. Revoir is properly laid-back and ineffectual as Motel.

Cook stands out as the dedicated, early-maturing daughter who marries the radical Perchik and follows him to his imprisonment in Siberia. A highlight of the production is the energetic, fiery performance of Will Nada as Perchik, full of youthful vigor and gleaming with idealism.

Duane Allen Thomas is notable as the youth Russian soldier who woos and wins Chava, played by Blakesley with sweet earnestness hiding the fires beneath the surface.

Sherry Domerego's Yente, the matchmaker the daughters are always one step ahead of, is less effective. Her accent is overdone, and she tries to play older; playing the role as herself would have been more effective. The Fiddler is a tiny bearded lady listed in the program as Sara Clancy, who prances on toe, giving the character an odd subtext.

BE THERE

"Fiddler on the Roof," Robert B. Moore Theatre, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Ends Sunday. $12-$16. (714) 432-5880, press 1. Running time: 3 hours, 10 minutes.

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