Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was lucky enough to visit some family of mine in the Washington DC area. While there I was also extremely lucky to acquire tickets to the sold out matinee of Fiddler on the Roof at Arena Stage.
I, like many other theatre practitioners have worked on many different productions of Fiddler on the Roof, I have also seen many. But, I had never seen the musical staged in the round, until now.
I was excited to see what the director and designers cooked up to create a world that allowed the audience to witness moments from all angles. I was not disappointed. The visuals of the show were stunning. The designs were simple, yet detailed enough that those in the front rows were noticing tiny little secrets to each clothing piece.
The dream sequence is a scene, no matter how many times I do the show, I enjoy. How each different theatre portrays Fruma Sarah in interesting and exciting. I love the creative ways they costume her, reveal her, and conceal her. Arena Stage did something I had never seen before and I loved it! (I will not share it here because it was so surprising that if you have the chance to see the show before it closes, I want you to have a similar experience that I had when she appeared) I will say this, if I had a dream where something appeared to me the same way she did to Tevye and Golde, I would not sleep in the same spot for a few nights. Not only was her entrance and costume inventive, but those of the other ghosts were new.
Usually ghostly rags are worn by those portraying ancestors, but this time in addition to rags, masks hid the actors' faces and gave a more bizarre dream quality to the piece. I really enjoyed seeing a man with a chicken head, and a woman with a mustache. The only accessory in the scene I was not quite 100% on were the wings that Grandmother Tzeitel had. They weren't out of place, but they just didn't feel like part of her. I'm still making up my mind about them.
It was fun to see how a different set up and space for a production can dictate how even the costumes are designed. This could be seen by the details that were built into even the backs of the characters' costumes. This makes sense since a majority of the audience sees the back of a character longer than one would in a proscenium staged play. A perfect example of such detail is Yenta's first costume. The back is so detailed with embroidery on her tichel. In a traditionally staged proscenium show, one would only catch a glimpse of the embroidery. In the round, one has time to appreciate its beauty.
For those of you who don't know the costume designer for Arena Stage's Fiddler on the Roof is the ever talented Paul Tazewell. He has many Tony nominations including In the Heights, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Color Purple, and Memphis, just tom name a few.
To see photos from this production visit Arena Stage's website and view the photo gallery.