Almost a decade after leaving its South Crouse Avenue home, and many months of silence, Salt City Center for the Performing Arts – the Energizer bunny of local companies–is back on the boards with a heartfelt, frequently touching Fiddler on the Roof at the State Fairgrounds’ Empire Theater.
Company stalwart Bob Brown, who first saw Joe Lotito in the milkman Tevye role 42 years ago, dedicates his performance to the founder’s memory. Brown channels Lotito’s world-weary trudge in pulling the milk wagon, but in most other regards his Tevye is his own. Not usually known for comedy, Brown is surprisingly adept at striking sparks from well-worn lines. In his long career he’s never been more nuanced and affecting in a wide range of emotions, from giddy joy to bleak pathos.
Credit a director with skill and standards, regardless of the budget. Director Cathleen O’Brien Brown has rounded up strong support in key roles, including Carol Ditch Bennett as the loving scold Golde, Liam Fitzpatrick as Perchik the radical student, Susana Carmen as Hodel the musical daughter, Michaela Oney as Yente the matchmaker, Rita Worlock as ashen-faced Grandma Tzeitel, and O’Brien Brown herself as the ghostly visitor Fruma-Sarah. Stephfond Brunson leads the flawless Bottle Dance, and light-footed Anthony Wright soars as the Chagall-like Fiddler of the title. Many other players in the large cast are recruited from companies in Baldwinsville, Fulton and Oswego, where community musical theater still flourishes.
A bodacious asset of this production is Abel Searor’s ensemble of nine musicians. For ethnic authenticity, Searor includes a mournful clarinet and a zesty accordion, which he plays himself. In big production numbers like “To Life,” the room thunders with joy.
Bob Brown in Salt City Center’s Fiddler on the Roof continues with final performances on Friday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 11, 8 p.m., at the State Fairgrounds’ Empire Theater. Call 727-5494 for details.