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SUNDANCE OFFERS REFRESHING ADAPTATION OF 'FIDDLER'

What could be better than being in the cool mountains during hot weather? Being at Sundance for a delightful production of "Fiddler on the Roof."

The opening number, "Tradition," sets a zesty tone for the rest of the show with one-liners interspersed amid the singing and dancing. The story of a poor Jewish dairyman in Czarist Russia trying to marry off five daughters while contending with the revolution and changing tradition is a musical that retains its charm year after year.Jerry Elison has ably directed the small cast that fills the Sundance stage with movement and interest. The show never drags during the 21/2 hours (including a 20-minute intermission), thanks to judicious cutting, which includes having some of the lyrics spoken rather than sung.

Clever lyrics and lines elicited many laughs from Wednesday night's large and enthusiastic audience as actors/singers communicated both words and ideas clearly.

Neal Barth was a little stiff at first but soon settled comfortably into his role as Tevye, whose gruff exterior belies a heart of gold. His one-sided conversations with God are amusing, and his strong singing voice is an asset to the character and the entire production.

There is real emotional impact in his scene with Chava (Renee Hieftje), his third daughter who has married outside the faith.

Sydney Riggs plays his wife Golde, the typical Jewish mother who runs the household. Riggs' likable character is firm rather than shrewish. The couple's other daughters are played by Stephanie Capener as Tzeitel, the oldest; Mary Hall as the spirited Hodel; Emily Clark and Kristyn Ruzicka as Sphrintze; and Georgia Lee and Kendra Ruzicka as Bielke.

Costume designer Janet L. Swenson plays the role of Yente, the busybody and official matchmaker of the village, with relish. Chris H. Brower displays a wonderful belly laugh and vindictive nature as Lazar Wolf, the butcher. Shawn Lynn is excellent as Motel, the tailor. David C. Barrus is Perchik, an intellectual student with political drive.

Other roles are played by John Rowland as the rabbi; Bruce Bredeson as the constable, Nathan Keller as young Fyedka, Daniel Law as Sasha and Stephen Dimond as the innkeeper.

A couple of creatively staged scenes merit special recognition. The lighting for "Sunrise, Sunset" lends a golden glow to the wedding scene. "Tevye's Dream," with the fog and eery characters sweeping across the stage from the graveyard, combined with other special effects, is an audience favorite.

Brent Schneider's energetic choreography enhances the production, as does live music by Merilee Webb Moran, Liz Deters, Keith Lewis and Darren Duerden. Versatile set pieces are moved quickly to create a different setting. The cast, staging, music and cool night air all combine for a refreshing evening of theater at Sundance.