Our multi-neighborhood city is home to a number of semi-professional and community theater groups, enriching cultural life across the rivers and up the hills. When such groups thrive, they acquire devoted followers who return again and again.
Among such groups, Stage 62 has been here for 25 years, first in Bethel Park, then relocated, in 1990, to Carnegie.
You can read the by-laws online; they include the aim of uniting communities. And this past Friday evening, quite a few such people gathered for the opening performance of Stage 62's Fiddler on the Roof. They had a good time.
Such an experience should be measured on a different scale than one evaluating truly professional theater. Everyone sang with good voices, even when the pungent intonations of the reed section in the 14-member orchestra could have misled them. Cast members conveyed the rudiments of the simple characters, delivering lines sincerely while, at the center, Leon Zionts as Tevye glowed with charming warmth. Director Patti Folmer's staging was effective, especially when she brought in a massive chorus, making the production itself seem a kind of community, a perfect effect for the tale.
The program book, meanwhile, is another example of small-theater group amateurism. In its 23-paragraph and three-page section called "Who's Who," it lacks any biographical information about the creators of the show. Surely someone in the audience would want to know that Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick wrote songs for seven other musicals including the Pulitzer Prize- and multi-Tony Award-winning Fiorello and the glorious She Loves Me. Book-writer Joseph Stein has major Broadway credits too, 13 musicals and four plays.
As for why anyone other than regular supporters of Stage 62 might want to drop by, a re-visit will remind them that Bock wrote some very appealing ethnic-like music, and that Stein's book has considerable originality. And while you can't miss that Fiddler has some obvious and ordinary songs and clunky scenes -- especially the interminable, hokey dream sequence, the often-original conception likewise has admirable rare and quiet act-closings, instead of predictable, rousing-finale production numbers.
Fiddler's other virtues include potentially emotional moments regarding the omnipresent subjects of family, traditions and faith. And Stage 62's choice for this time of year offers a welcome alternative to constantly recurring theater products based on more widely practiced traditions.
Fiddler on the Roof continues through Nov. 17. Andrew Carnegie Free Library Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Ave, Carnegie. 412-429-6262 or www.stage62.com