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Hale production of 'Fiddler On the Roof' is on firm footing

Jennifer Parker Hohl as Golde and Bruce Bredeson as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof."
Jennifer Parker Hohl as Golde and Bruce Bredeson as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof."
Hale Centre Theatre

"Fiddler on the Roof," through April 10, Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley, 801-984-9000, running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes (one intermission)

Few shows are as traditional in the musical theater cannon as "Fiddler On the Roof." Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City asked its patrons what shows they'd like to see and they overwhelmingly picked "Fiddler" — a tale about Tevye, a poor dairyman with five daughters and a deep connection to his Jewish faith and its traditions.

"Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof," Tevye explains during one of his many exchanges with the audience. The Hale production is anything but shaky and offers some wonderful performances.

Thursday night, the monster lead role was played by Bruce Bredeson. (He alternates with David W. Stenstrud.) Bredeson is absolutely charming in the role of the papa. He's full of warmth, humor and, most importantly, his heartbreak is genuine as he watches the world he loves change.

His relationships with his daughters are lovely, but even better is the endearing connection with his wife Golde, played by Jennifer Parker Hohl. (Marcie Jacobsen doubles.) Hohl and Bredeson are a joy to watch together and "Do You Love Me?" is perfectly sweet, sincere and sung like a couple who really has stemmed the tide for 25 years.

Actually, director John Sweeney has assembled a very solid cast top to bottom. Tevye's daughters and their husbands are all wonderful singers and have great chemistry with one another — making it completely believable the young girls would risk so much to be with the men they love.

The problem is that it takes us too long to get to know the daughters in this production because Kacey Udy's two-story set of Tevye's home blocks the view of the darling daughters. How disappointing to have to look around pillars and through stairs to catch a glimpse of the girls as they sing "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," one of the most charming numbers in musical theater.

It was a full hour into the show before I got my first good look at the face of the any of the daughters. The unnecessary second floor was again a hindrance, blocking the view of Yente, the matchmaker, talking to Golde, and the first time we see Tevye's family in prayer. The rest of Udy's set is very good.

In a space as intimate as Hale's, fake beards can be spotted a mile away. I understand the men need to play multiple characters, but the fake beards are no match against the mottled variations of real beards. It would be nice to see them blend in a bit more.

Hale has hired a phenomenal fiddler, Aaron Ashton (who alternates with Julie Beistline). His playing is exceptional and Hale has also utilized him for a couple of set changes. One interesting choice is having the fiddler on stage as Tevye talks to God about his third daughter. It pulled the focus from Tevye's heart wrenching decision. But, please let Ashton take his bow from the stage floor rather than on the high platform — the audience can't see him and he's not given his due.

The dream scene is fun, Tamara Clayton's costumes are great and the harmonies are exquisite (Kelly DeHaan is the music director.) All in all, Hale's production is wonderful representation of a beloved theater tradition.