BY JENNIFFER WARDELL
Clipper Staff Writer
CENTERVILLE – A charming man can make the hours fly by.
Lane B. Willden, who played Tevye in the opening night cast of CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” has charm, love and good humor to spare. He’s the heart of this hopeful, highly satisfying production, which runs now through July 20.
The classic musical tells the story of Tevye, a Jewish father in Tsarist Russia in 1905, wrestling with political persecution, the modern world, and his daughters’ individual quests for love. Productions typically rise or fall on the strength of the actor playing Tevye, since we see most of the play through his eyes. If he’s not pleasant company, the whole experience suffers.
That’s definitely not a problem here. Willden is fantastic, balancing the character’s bluster, sense of humor and genuine love for his family. His conversations with God were hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking, with Willden able to transition seamlessly from one emotion to the other. His frustration and confusion as his way of life crumbled around him was understandable, but Willden made it clear that Tevye’s heart would always win out in the end.
The rest of the cast was also good, particularly Emily Wells as Tevye’s middle daughter Hodel and Kyle Allen as her sweetheart Perchik. Wells beautifully communicated her character’s first tastes of defiance С the heady but terrifying feeling of finally being able to say exactly what you want. Allen, playing a budding revolutionary, carefully shades his character’s zeal with a thoughtful tenderness. Jonathan D. Crittendon is sweet as the oldest daughter’s meek but devoted suitor.
Guided by director Addie Holman, the group comes together to create one of the most hopeful productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” I’ve ever seen. Though several of the characters suffer a major setback in the last few scenes, there’s a strong feeling that this is by no means the end. They’ll recover from this, just as they have from everything else. There’s even hope for one of the most significant estrangements in the production, a spark of optimism not found in the well-known 1971 movie version.
By the end, you’ll want Tevye and his family to have every scrap of hope available to them. And when the curtains close, you’ll be sorry to see them go.