The first review of FIDDLER is out – and it’s a smash!

The first review of Plaza’s FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is out, and with a headline like “Fiddler May Be Plaza’s Best”, you know it’s glowing. Folks, we can’t suggest enough that you make plans to see this phenomenal show and that you reserve early. We are honored to have this show on our stage. Read on for a terrific review of the show then call us at 817-202-0600 to reserve.

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‘Fidder’ may be Plaza’s best
By Paul Gnadt

keenestar@thestargroup.com

The matchmaker got it right.

The decision to cast G. Aaron Siler in the lead role as Tevye in the Plaza Theatre Company’s presentation of “Fiddler on the Roof” deserves almost as much credit as Siler.

He gave what must be the most outstanding performance by a leading man in live musical theater this season, certainly in community playhouses in Johnson and Tarrant counties and perhaps the entire Metroplex.

This is “Must see Tevye.”

PTC regulars — season tickets were capped when sales reached 1,000 — know Siler as the organization’s co-founding producer and are used to seeing him in a variety of supporting roles (Buffalo Bill in “Annie Get Your Gun”) and occasional co-lead turns (Burl Sanders in the “Smoke on the Mountain” series).

His behind-the-scenes talents in scenic design, sound design and as overall director earned him Column Awards last year.

But this time, he has the lead and the part fits him perfectly. It’s a match. It’s Siler’s best work in PTC’s three-year history, and what makes it stand out even more is this is the most ambitious ensemble singing, choreography and costuming PTC has assembled on stage.

The role of Tevye is double cast — as are the roles of Tevye’s wife, Golde, and their three daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava — with veteran Burl Proctor in the lead role on some nights. But it was Siler on the night I attended.

PTC’s “Fiddler” involves 54 individual actors, requiring clever and precise use of every bit of floor space in the 160-seat theatre-in-the-round, plus the first five or six steps of every aisle on most of the production numbers. First produced on Broadway in 1964, “Fiddler” features Jerry Bock’s music, Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics and Joseph Stein’s book, based on the humorous folk stories of a writer who called himself Sholem Aleichem, which translated from the Yiddish means, “Peace be with you.”

The setting is Anatevka, a little Jewish village in Tsarist Russia. It’s 1905 and Tevye, a poor milkman trying to make a living for his wife and five daughters, is struggling to preserve Jewish traditions in a fast-changing world. The oldest of Tevye’s three daughters, Tzeitel, is double cast with Jessica Astorga and, on the night I attended, the getting-better-with-each-production Tabitha Barrus, who, acts, sings, dances and somehow manages to direct the choreography.

As with most PTC presentations, “Fiddler” has a considerable Barrus family presence.

Tabitha’s parents, JaceSon and Tina, are the company’s co-founders and co-producers — along with Aaron and Milette Siler — her grandparents, Jodie and Soni directed the play, while Soni doubled as music director and found time to play Grandma Tzeitel, and a brother, Cameron, assisted Aaron Siler with light design.

The other sisters, Hodel (Monica Music and Katrina Nicholas) and Chava (Julianna Keller and Taylor O’Toole), are charming and can sing, just like everyone else in the play.

Jerry Downey, fresh off his PTC debut as Ellard in “The Foreigner,” is amusingly timid as Motel, the poor tailor who wins Tzeitel’s hand. The role of Golde, Tevye’s lovingly shrewish wife, is shared by Judy Keller and Samantha Parrish, a PTC first-timer who has an impressive national touring pedigree. And she can sing.

While there are many new faces with speaking parts, there are familiar faces too, such as Andrew Guzman as Perchik, a student from the “outside world” who breaks down “traditions” and persuades one of Tevye’s daughters to leave, Jay Cornils as a constable and Auston McIntosh as a Russian soldier who also takes a daughter.

The ensemble production numbers are what I’ve come to expect from the Plaza, and they deliver right from the start with “Tradition,” followed by “To Life,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Anatevka.”

Somewhere in between are two knockout numbers that stand out because they are so different. One is “The Bottle Dance,” a Russian folk-type routine where Mark McKee, Mitchell Moore, David Phillips and Devlin Pollock balance half-full wine bottles on their heads while dancing around the stage.

The other is the most ambitious and clever production number I’ve seen at the PTC, the featured performers of which just might be costume designer Kara Barnes and set designer JaceSon Barrus, whose interpretation of Tevye’s Dream is a visual delight.

With all respect to previous Plaza musical ensemble presentations such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “All Shook Up,” this production of “Fiddler” just may be the best. I’ve seen it at the Muny Opera in St. Louis and at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth with a Broadway touring company, and I enjoyed PTC’s version much more. As they say, get your tickets while they last, cause they’ll be gone fast, just like Anatevka.

With stage management by Cessany Ford, sound design by G. Aaron Siler (he’s everywhere), set design by JaceSon Barrus and excellent wall mural and set painting by Mayre Stewart and Julie Lee, “Fiddler on the Roof” is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays through March 10 at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St., in Cleburne.

Tickets — $15 for adults, $13 for seniors age 65 and older and students, and $12 for children age 12 and under — are on sale 10 a.m. -6 p.m.  Monday-Saturday at the Plaza box office or by calling 817-202-0600.

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