REVIEW: Repertory Philippines' 'Fiddler on the Roof' celebrates family ties

Celebrating Family Ties 
By Walter Ang
December 3, 2007 (

Miguel Faustmann and Tyler Alan Strand
Repertory Philippines' staging of the musical Fiddler of the Roof provides wholesome family fun with its story of Jewish milkman Tevye as he copes with the seemingly runaway love lives of three of his five daughters.

The entire cast, led by Tevye, comes onstage as the curtains rise to sing a rousing introduction to their insular village of Anatevka that includes a primer to their traditions and the social roles they all play.

Though he kvetches to God in amusing conversations and constantly misquotes the "good book," Tevye tries to live by these traditions while raising his children with wife Golde. Alternate leads Tyler Alan Strand (with Rep veteran Miguel Faustmann as main lead) is a bouncy, rolly-polly Tevye that grows on you and Pinky Marquez (main lead is Joy Virata) gives tenderness to the outwardly tough Golde.

Things get rough for Tevye when he has to reconcile his convictions with oldest daughter Tzeitel's, second daughter Hodel and third daughter Chava's choices in men and lifestyles. Though her young age shows through her characterization during some moments, sixteen year old Samantha Sewell shows potential as eldest daughter Tzeitel while Cris Villonco establishes the strongest presence amongst the sisters in her portrayal of Hodel.

Tevye is a protective, sensitive man who really does want his daughters to be happy and eventually acquiesces. He even comes up with an imaginative way of convincing his wife, ending in a wickedly funny number to end the first act. Tevye's daughters grow up to new responsibilities and possibilities in the second act while outside forces close in on the little town of Anatevka. The audience takes the ride with Tevye to see how he reacts and solves the problems that crop up.

The material, due to some historical and political underpinnings, may feel slow for some and the show's sense of humor may occasionally get lost on audiences. The cast's comic timing was a bit off when we caught the show and it would have been great to hear them deliver their punchlines with a bit more spunk, a mix of slight sarcasm and deadpan.

Nonetheless, Tevye's story is an endearing one. With direction by Robbie Guevarra, the show is a fun way for local audiences to catch a glimpse of Jewish history and to experience one of the more "classic" Broadway musicals. While one or two of the show's songs by by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, such as the opening number "Tradition," "Matchmaker," and "Sunrise, Sunset," may be familiar to audiences, the fact that this Rep's fifth restaging in its forty-year-history (and perhaps also that it is Rep's annual Christmas big musical) imbues the show with an intimate, comfortable and animated feel. And as with most Rep musicals, the songs where the chorus or entire cast has to sing all sound great.

As the story ends on a somewhat serious tone, one can always launch into discussions of families that are uprooted and separated, of the implications of reconciling personal convictions with the inevitability of change. However, at the end of the day, Fiddler is the stage equivalent of comfort food and shouldn't be overanalyzed. This holiday season, just enjoy the story of this musical's every-family and share in its celebration of the power of family ties and the enduring spirit of love.

Fiddler on the Roof runs until Dec. 16 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1. Visit or call 887-0710. Tickets are also available at Ticketworld ? Tel No. 891-9999.