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The Villages
Monday, May 27, 2024

Stellar cast retells beloved story of ‘Fiddler On the Roof’

Bill Krone, Billie Thatcher and a cast percolating with heartfelt energy, delivered a performance of “Fiddler…” that nearly raised the roof Monday in Savannah Center.
It was the first of four consecutive sold out shows of “Fiddler on the Roof” running through Wednesday. Nearly a decade ago, Krone — who plays Tevye—and Thatcher, as his wife Golde, performed those roles for The Villages Musical Theater.

They were directed back then by Carol Greenfield, who returned to direct this powerful  reunion of the classic Broadway play based on the writings of Sholem Aleichem. It is filled with joy, sorrow, loss, tradition, love – along with music and dance.

Bill Krone and Billie Thatcher reunite to star in Fiddler On the Roof in Savannah Center
Bill Krone and Billie Thatcher reunite to star in “Fiddler On the Roof” in Savannah Center.

Much has changed in the past decade — and in the past six months. Change is part of the essence of this musical. “The world changes, and we with it,” is a quote from “Fiddler” and the world has indeed changed for Jews, Palestinians, Americans and the Mid-East.

Innocent Jewish women, men, children, babies and elderly people were massacred by Hamas on Oct. 7. And hostages were taken.
Israel declared war on Hamas in Gaza – and has killed thousands of innocent Palestinian women, men, children, babies and elderly people.

Bill Krone and Billie Thatcher gather the family for prayers
Bill Krone and Billie Thatcher gather the family for prayers.

“Fiddler…” debuted on Broadway in 1964 and it’s hard to watch now without thinking of today’s tragic context.

“You can’t close your eyes to what’s happening in the world,” Luma Green, as Perchik, says in the play, which takes place in a small Jewish village in Russia (now Ukraine) during the early 1900s.

“Fiddler…” is about perseverance in the face of prejudice and oppression. It’s a familiar, tragic story for Jewish people. As Bill Krone as Tevye says in one of his many conversations with God:
“We are the chosen people, but once in a while, can’t you choose someone else.”

The cast of Fiddler On the Roof opens the show in style
The cast of “Fiddler On the Roof” opens the show in style.

Krone is one of the most versatile local performers in The Villages. But there is something transformative in his portrayal of Tevye.

It runs deep in his blood. His grandfather fled Russia to escape persecution in the early 1900s and came to America.

Krone pulls the heart and soul out of Tevye the Dairyman, and does so with humor and pathos. He copes with his five daughters who are coming of age; his nagging wife, his poverty and brutal repression by the Russians.

Krone jump starts the musical with a stirring version of “Tradition.” Soon the stage is filled with dancers and singers, whirling and twirling with explosive movements. Above them all, stands Bonnie Stauffer, a solitary fiddler on a house roof.
Later, Krone hits his stride with the thumping, “If I Were A Rich Man.”

He captures the humor, sadness and desultory acceptance of bigotry and suffering. Krone manages to straddle the line between comedy and tragedy that so defines Tevye.

He gets plenty of help from Billie Thatcher, who offers an inspired performance as Golde. She wants to marry off her daughter to a butcher, but Tzeitel – played with charm by Kathy Chesley Williams – loves a tailor. Mark McCandless plays Motel the Tailor, hopelessly smitten with Tzeitel.
Bob Petrucelli barks and howls as old Lazar, the Butcher, who loses Tzeitel to the younger, handsome tailor.

The romantic climax comes in a powerful wedding scene as Krone and Thatcher sing a moving “Sunrise, Sunset,” with help from the chorus. Larry Wallace as Rabbi, and Greg Senholzi as his son, add to the traditional atmosphere.

There are more romantic adventures for the other daughters played by: Carol Wiltman (Hodel), Lynn Damaske (Chava), Natalie Wolgamott (Shprintze) and Anya Gulati as Bielke. Lynn Wallace is Yente, the matchmaker who tries to get them hitched.

Choreographer Lynne Greenberger makes the Ukrainian and Jewish folk dances come alive and captures the flavor of 1900s’ celebrations. Her husband, Bruce Greenberger, is assistant director and producer.

A show stopper comes in the first act, when Krone and Thatcher settle in bed and have a dream that turns into a graveyard, zombie nightmare. Randee Gore Kosmoski as Fruma-Sarah and Deb Barkelar as Grandma Tzeitel are downright spooky.

Randee Gore Kosmoski, far right, gets spooky.
Randee Gore Kosmoski, far right, gets spooky.

Eventually, part of the family breaks up and the Russians expel the Jews. Love, though, finds a way to touch them all. Then, Tevye and Golde head to America as immigrants.

But that’s another story.

Tony Violanti writes about music and entertainment for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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