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Nevada Conservatory’s ‘Fiddler’ full of good feeling, talent

Watching a good production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” for those who have seen it once or six times before, can be like getting acquainted with an old friend.

The Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick musical is an expertly constructed story about a poor milkman in early 1900s Czarist Russia trying to survive poverty, seven daughters, a nagging wife and a ruler who doesn’t seem to like Jews very much.

Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s production makes the material fresh. Director/choreographer Mindy Cooper highlights the script’s humor, resulting in a more traditional musical-comedy feel that was prevalent when the show first opened on Broadway in 1964. Those expecting a Topol-like realism from the 1971 film likely will be sorely disappointed.

But the musical-comedy approach is a legitimate one. No, we don’t necessarily believe this Tevye (union actor David Brummel) is burdened with all the troubles he says he’s got, but we enjoy his oversized presence, his jovial attitude and his way with a song.

Sherri Brewer is all nervous tics as Golde, and it’s a joy to watch the skillful way her character handles her husband. You understand how their love has sustained a long marriage.

Joan Mullaney (another union actress) pleasantly exaggerates the eccentricities of her Yente, the matchmaker character, so that her obvious goyishness just adds to the fun.

Cooper’s choreography is light, breezy and refreshing in the way it doesn’t try to imitate Jerome Robbins’ original (and much-celebrated) movement. You smile whenever you realize someone is about to dance.

Michelle Warner’s always attractive lighting keeps the far upstage silent fiddler always in focus throughout the action, as if to say, “Don’t forget this minor character’s importance to the story.” And Xuzheng He’s versatile set gives the village a slightly cartoonish, Hansel and Gretel look, which accentuates the director’s slightly stylized, giddy touch.

Curious, though, that at opening-night intermission, the major topic of conversation seemed to be the single trumpet player in the 13-member orchestra who had spent much of the evening evading the proper notes. Why do orchestras so often feel like they are not a part of a show’s foundation? That they are an entity onto themselves?

But far be it from me to kvetch. I had been dreading visiting this show once again, but there’s so much good feeling and talent involved that I felt like I was being seduced by a long-forgotten lover. The old girl holds up mighty well.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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