Alhambra’s ‘Fiddler’ worth the 25-year wait


Any good musical production is a journey. Whether external or internal, it’s the journey that keeps audiences coming back even when they have committed to memory every spoken line, every song, every scene. It’s the journey that audiences yearn to relive, with musical numbers they have grown to love serving to mark their progress.

It’s one reason shows like “Fiddler on the Roof” never decline in popularity. No matter how many times we may have seen it, whether on stage or screen, we’re always ready to relive it. And, if fortunate enough to see it performed by different companies, we discover something new with each viewing.

Thus, Alhambra Theatre & Dining’s acquisition of the show’s performance rights after 25 years is reason to celebrate. Local audiences may now embark on that journey once again.

The production features the work of three members of the Booth family: Tod in the lead role of Tevye, his wife Lisa as Tevye’s wife Golde and daughter Jessica as director. Their individual talents, honed over decades, as well as their offstage familiarity enrich the show in ways both apparent and subtle.

Tod Booth’s Tevye is sympathetic, likeable; he’s someone you want to know. This works especially well when he feels he must reject his daughter for her choice of a husband. His “Chava is dead to us” is a cold slap in the face simply because it comes from someone with whom we have identified, someone who until now has shown a willingness to accommodate what he cannot change. As a result, his small acknowledgement of Chava and Fyedka at the play’s penultimate moment serves as a sign of hope, and one can almost sense a collective sigh of relief from the audience.

Those who have previously seen “Fiddler” know these moments are coming, but thanks to Booth’s effective performance, they remain impactful.

Lisa Valdini Booth literally becomes Golde. Last seen as Mrs. Potts in the Alhambra production of “Beauty and the Beast,” she leaves no vestige of the actress herself for audiences to recognize. That’s not to say that she doesn’t bring her own insights and life experiences to the role. At the conclusion of “Do You Love Me?” both Lisa and Tod Booth share a moment that radiates authenticity.

This cast is rich with talent, and to recognize each individually would require more space than can be had. But some performances stand out even so.

Sarah Warshavsky as Tzeitel, Natalie Drake as Hodel and Sofia Smith as Chava deliver especially strong performances. Their “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” is one of the show’s highlights.

Patti Eyler’s Yente is flawlessly executed and Allan Baker gives a powerful performance as Lazar Wolf. Also worthy of recognition are Bear Manescalchi as Motel, Alexander Blanco as Perchik and Melvin Nash as Fyedka. In fact, Nash’s long-held note at the start of the Russian response in “To Life” drew applause from the audience.

Everyone has their favorite “Fiddler” numbers. Highlights of this production, in addition to those already mentioned, were without question the dream sequence when a towering Fruma Sarah (Alexia Adcock-Stanford) terrorizes Tevye and the bottle dance, which always generates a great deal of suspense.

Set designers David Dionne and Ian Black deserve a mention for once again transforming Alhambra’s small performance area into something greater. The set gives us both the inside and outside of Tevye’s house, the tailor shop and a suggestion of all Anatevka. And the Fiddler actually does sit atop the roof without interference from the venue’s ceiling or lighting fixtures.

Anyone wanting to experience “Fiddler on the Roof,” whether for the first or 20th time will want to get tickets before they’re all gone. The show runs through Sept. 17.

Alhambra Theatre & Dining is located at 12000 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville. For tickets, go to The business phone number is 904-641-1212.