Aug. 1 2012 01:24 PM

Classic musical at Moonlight Amphitheatre leads our rundown of plays in local production

David Ellenstein as Tevye
Photo by Ken Jacques

    Tevye, the milkman of Anatevka, is a man who weighs his decisions carefully. On the one hand, this. On the other hand, that. He is a fair man and a good man.

    So, to borrow from Tevye: On the one hand, Fiddler on the Roof is a 48-year-old musical that many theatergoers have seen before, perhaps two or three times. On the other hand, there's a young generation for whom the story of the Russian Jew, his daughters, their suitors and the oppression of the tsar at the turn of the 20th century is new and capable of opening their eyes wide. Both generations are in attendance at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista, where Producing Artistic Director Kathy Brombacher, who'll retire at the end of the company's 2012 season, directs a warm and winning show.

    The measure of any production of the 1964 classic based on stories by Sholom Aleichem is its Tevye. David Ellenstein, who's the artistic director of North Coast Rep, makes his acting debut at Moonlight and brings tenderness, generosity of spirit and well-timed humor to Fiddler's emotional anchor. He moves back and forth across Moonlight's open-air stage with the sheer jauntiness called for at one moment and, at another, the world-weariness of a man deeply devoted to God and family whose traditions are under siege.

    As Tevye's stalwart but superstitious wife Golde, Victoria Strong lives up to her surname, and among Tevye's daughters, Charlene Koepf as Hodel demonstrates a notably lovely singing voice.

    Fiddler is rich with enduring Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick songs, of course: "Matchmaker," "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man," "Do You Love Me?" and "Sunrise, Sunset." The latter, a bittersweet backdrop to the wedding of Tevye's eldest daughter Tzeitel (Alexis Grenier), is a highlight of the lengthy but engrossing first act. Ellenstein and Strong nail "Do You Love Me?" in Act 2. It's a quiet, romantic aside before the turmoil of the story's dark climax when the villagers are forced from their homes.

    One glitch on opening weekend: Yente the matchmaker's microphone dropped out for a second or two. Maybe it was Tevye's daughters' handiwork: I'll choose my own husband, thank you very much.

    Fiddler on the Roof runs through Aug. 11 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. $29-$50.

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    La Cage Aux Folles: Bronze celebrity George Hamilton stars as Georges, a gay nightclub owner who, with his drag-queen wife, concocts a ruse to satisfy his son's fiancée's conservative parents. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs Aug. 7 through 12 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown.

    Much Ado About Nothing: New Village Arts stages Shakespeare's classic rom-com and sets it in the time just after World War II. Runs Aug. 2 through 12 at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad. Free tickets available each night at 6 p.m.; $20 for reserved seats.

    The Music Man: A con man aims to scam the good folks of River City in the musical that brought us the timeless tune, "Shipoopi." Presented by Patio Playhouse, it opens Aug. 3 at Kit Carson Park Amphitheatre in Escondido.

    Now Playing

    Divine Rivalry: Master manipulator Niccolò Machiavelli pits Leonardo Da Vinci against Michelangelo in a mural-painting competition in 16th-century Italy. Through Aug. 5 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

    The Man Who Came to Dinner: A pompous critic and radio personality is injured in a fall on the way to dinner at the home of a small-town Ohio family and must stay longer than planned as he heals. Through Aug. 5 at the Coronado Playhouse.

    The Nightingale: A young emperor in ancient China is feeling claustrophobic within the Forbidden City when he hears the sweet song of a bird. Yes, this, too, is a musical, with tunes by composer Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater. Through Aug. 5 at La Jolla Playhouse.

    Sheila: Rock musical about a beautiful, popular high-school girl who, word has it, has been around the block a few times—if you know what we mean. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more. Through Aug. 5 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido.

    Fiddler on the Roof: It's 1905, and Russian milkman and father Tevye just can't get hip to the modern world. Through Aug. 11 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.

    Dames at Sea: A young Utah woman arrives in New York with dreams of stardom and then—voila!—becomes one. In between, there's singing and dancing. Extended through Aug. 12 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.

    Man of La Mancha: Don Quixote dreams the impossible dream, or so Miguel de Cervantes tells us, in this classic musical. Through Aug. 26 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.

    God of Carnage: Two sets of ill-behaved parents fight over their sons' altercation in a park in this darkly comedic play, which originated in Switzerland and was adapted by Roman Polanski into the 2011 film Carnage. Through Sept. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

    Respect: A Musical Journey of Women: The evolution of women's roles in society is explored through past top-40 hits in this upbeat musical. Extended through Sept. 9 at the Lyceum Stage at Horton Plaza.

    Inherit the Wind: The Old Globe takes on the classic fictionalized version of the true story of the Scopes "monkey trial," at the end of which a high-school teacher was convicted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution. The 1955 play used the trial as a parallel to the McCarthyism of the era. Through Sept. 25 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park.

    Richard III: King Edward IV's malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England's throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare's history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.

    As You Like It: If it's a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.

    miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 25 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown.

    Once Upon a Wedding: Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13.

    Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill.


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