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A Favorite Fiddler

The story of a Russian Jew and his daughters gets a quality staging in Thousand Oaks.

August 03, 2000|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's such a local favorite that hardly a year goes by without somebody staging "Fiddler on the Roof" in Ventura County. This year's edition, presented by the Cabrillo Music Theatre, is of the high quality that's come to be expected from the group.

Those (if there are any) unfamiliar with the show need know only that it's the story of Tevye, a poor dairyman in the predominantly Jewish Russian village of Anatevka, circa 1905. Although the Russian revolution is many years away, stirrings can be felt. Closer to home, three of Tevye's five daughters are approaching marriageable age, and one by one they're questioning the tradition of arranged marriages.

And their choices of husbands aren't exactly what Tevye and his wife, Golde, had in mind. Hilarity, tenderness, political unrest and songs--including "If I Were a Rich Man," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and "Sunrise, Sunset"--ensue.

Joe Matarazzo, who's said to be playing Tevye for his 10th time, is larger than life and likable in this production, which co-stars Arlene Thomas as Golde; Brenda Cox as the matchmaker, Yente; and Dan Kerman as the butcher, Lazar Wolf. The three daughters and their intendeds are played by Erin Appling Warden (who starred last year in the company's "Cinderella") and Joshua Kranz; Kristi Holden and Matthew Patrick Quinn; and Natalie Lander and Paul Green.

An observation, not really a complaint: Situations and locutions notwithstanding, this is a curiously non-ethnic version of "Fiddler." The lack of plastered-on accents may be disconcerting to some viewers but results in dialogue that's refreshingly understandable.

Joseph Stein based his script on a short story by the writer Sholom Aleichem; Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick wrote the songs. Jon Engstrom directed and nicely choreographed the current production, and musical director Ilana Eden conducts the very fine orchestra.

DETAILS

"Fiddler on the Roof" concludes Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza auditorium, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 to $32 and available from the Civic Arts Plaza box office, through Ticketmaster outlets or by telephone from Ticketmaster at 583-8700. For groups of 12 or more, call Debbie Pizzano at 497-8686. For additional box office information, call 449-2787.

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Don't know what's in the air these days, but several local groups have taken it upon themselves to update Shakespeare.

Moorpark College's current "As You Like It" is simply puzzling. Director Eric Augusztiny and his cast have decided that the world (Moorpark, at least) would enjoy seeing the play set in a 1970s California beach community. While much of the original language is retained, my Shakespeare concordance contains no mention of some terms used here, including "hippie chick".

The show has its moments, though, many involving groups of people; chief among them is a well-staged wrestling scene at a luau.

Well-staged (Rene Baum is credited with choreography, Paul Carganilla with the fights), the show features some nice performances, including those of Aisana Mantela as the cross-dressing Rosalind and Jenny Walker as her cousin, Celia; John Koladziej as Oliver; Joseph Cerardo and Tim Coultas as Silvius and Corin (shepherds in the original, mechanics here); and Ilona Kane as a dancing deer--more light would have displayed her antlers more prominently.

On the other side of the county, the Ojai Shakespeare Festival is presenting "Julius Caesar," set in ancient Rome and with the players wearing togas and sandals. These days, the concept seems practically revolutionary.

More about them next week, but if you're interested in the play, consider it recommended.

DETAILS

"As You Like It" runs today through Sunday at the Moorpark College Performing Arts Center Studio Theater, on the Moorpark College campus on Collins Drive off the Ronald Reagan Freeway. Performances are today through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; $8 seniors and students; $6 ages 12 and under. For reservations or more information, call 378-1485.

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Todd Everett can be reached at teverett@concentric.net.

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