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Review: 'Fiddler' and Phamaly are a perfect match

Sophia Hummel and Leslie Wilburn in Fiddler on the Roof
Michael Ensminger

Fiddler On The Roof


As a Jewish woman of Eastern European descent, I’ve always had a particularly strong (if not cliché) attachment to “Fiddler on the Roof.” The stories and songs bring back as many memories for me as the first whiff of my mother’s house on Passover. “Sunrise, Sunset” is her famous matzo ball soup and “Little Bird” is my father’s bad jokes during the lengthy Seder dinner. Yet, “Fiddler” is not just personal for me, this timeless classic is a favorite for so many reasons. The emotional arc of Tevya as he struggles to adapt to a swiftly changing world is a universal story of a father’s love, one that spans generations and religions. And now, thanks to the amazing Phamaly Theatre Company, you can enjoy a truly beautiful version of this beloved classic musical through August 11.

Phamaly, formerly known as the Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League, was the first company of its kind in the United States. As the only theatre company to feature exclusively performers with disabilities of any kind, the Phamaly stage is lit up by actors with disabilities ranging form Parkinson’s to hearing challenges, to emotional disabilities and everything in between. What has always been incredibly powerful about a Phamaly show is that the performers don’t perform “in spite of” their disabilities. Instead, the individual’s disability is included in the character, keeping that particular trait as a part of who that person is. In addition, these actors are also incredible performers, all with strong voices, beautiful stage presence and an ability to capture a story in a way that is unlike any other theatre company in the state.

Led by a moving and powerful Mark Dissette as Tevya, the cast of Phamaly’s “Fiddler on the Roof” shines. Each performer brings their own unique spin to these well-known characters, creating a new, yet still familiar, version of the classic story. Mark Dissette’s Tevya is emotional and brave, putting on a strong front when he must and showing his softer side when it’s needed. Dissette’s powerful voice is also simply perfect with Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s beloved songs.

Daniel Traylor as Fyedka and Jeremy Palmer as Perchick, are also exceptionally impressive, both bringing very believable and warm portrayals to the stage. Ashley Kelashian brings a hugely boisterous version of Yente, the matchmaker. Her energy may have been a bit bigger than many of the other performances on that stage, but when she took things down a bit and simply said good bye to her friend Golde, it was one of the most touching moments of the evening.

The three eldest daughters of Tevya played by Rachel Van Scoy, Kenzie Kilroy and Lyndsay Palmer are also all truly wonderful. Their voices handled the music beautifully, bringing warmth and heart behind all of the lyrics and emotions, making the scenes that each daughter has with her father particularly touching. It is also crucial to note the amazing fiddler (s) that appear throughout this beautiful production. Particularly impressive is the young Leslie Wilburn, who plays the beautiful melodies with grace and ease, and is much stronger than many musicians more than three times his young age.

Phamaly is a professional theatre company, known all over the country, for their unique and powerful productions. If you’ve never seen a Phamaly production, then this musical is the perfect introduction to this magnificent company, just be sure to bring your tissues. The combination of a classic like “Fiddler on the Roof” and Phamaly is truly the perfect match.

Phamaly Theatre Company Presents:
Fiddler On the Roof

at the Space Theatre
Denver Center Performing Arts Complex
Through August 11, 2013
Tickets range from $30 - $34
Tickets and information at

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