Capsule Stage Reviews: Fiddler on the Roof, From My Hometown, The Hollow, Scriptwriters/Houston 23rd Annual 10x10 Showcase 2013, Sweeney Todd (Generations Theatre), Sweeney Todd (Stage Door, Inc.)

Fiddler on the Roof Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway in 1964, running for 3,242 performances and winning nine Tony awards. Based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, it portrays the life of a Jewish farmer with five daughters. Houston Family Arts Center wisely stages it in the 456-seat auditorium at the Berry Center — its huge stage provides epic sweep. Set in 1905 in a small Russian village, Fiddler chronicles the village as well as the family. HFAC uses 64 actors to capture the humanity and love, sometimes contentious, that infused the community. Director Ilich Guardiola has heroically marshaled hordes of skilled actors into a cohesive whole, and Jeffrey Baldwin as Tevye strikes just the right note, whether arguing with his wife or reminding God that it wouldn't hurt to send a little money his way. Nora Hahn as his wife Golde lets matriarchal strength and family love emerge from under a stern demeanor — she is excellent. The Fiddler (Erik Olmos Tristan) has a sprightly manner and amusing body language. The marriage-age daughters, and their suitors, are all great. David Armstrong is authentic as the well-off butcher, and Cecil Davis amusing as an elderly rabbi out of his depth. The music is superb: "Tradition," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Sunrise, Sunset," among many others. Baldwin's resonant voice delivers the songs with the wit and the humor required; his performance is delightful, insightful, intelligent and brilliant. There's wonderful group dancing, choreography by Luke Hamilton and colorful costumes designed by Lisa Garza. The lighting by Ron Putterman is excellent, adding haunting ambience. A breathtakingly entertaining production captures the brilliance, warmth, humor, charm and compelling music of a show-business masterpiece. Through July 28. 8877 Barker Cypress Rd., 281-685-6374. — JJT

From My Hometown Three male performers, known by their hometowns, meet on the way to callback auditions at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. Act One introduces them, and Act Two does more of the same, before skyrocketing them to success as a trio. Their story is told in dialogue and music, some original, and some R&B's greatest hits. "Memphis" is played by Anthony Boggess-Glover, a 25-year veteran of the Ensemble Theatre, who has an imposing stage presence, an engaging smile, and can dance up a storm. His charm anchors the evening. "Detroit" is portrayed by Jobari Parker-Namdar, younger and with some of the poise and flash of a young Sinatra and the dance authority of Michael Jackson. His character is edgy, with an overtone of arrogance, but invariably interesting. Ron Jonson plays "Philly" — written as a bit of a bumbler, and compelled by the script to be less adroit as a dancer, though he has the moves when needed. He is naive, eminently likable, and completes the triumvirate of vastly different performers having one thing in common — the dream of success. These are talented singers, and skilled actors as well — their rich performances bring to life a predictable script largely devoid of surprises, as seamless rhythms carry us along on waves of pleasure. "Working in a Coal Mine" and "Chain Gang" strike a serious note, while "Walkin' the Dog" and "I'm Your Puppet" hit exuberant themes. Much of the music consists of original songs by the multitalented Lee Summers, who conceived the show and brought in his collaborators, Ty Stephens and Robert Rawlings Jr. The show is brilliantly directed by Ensemble's Patdro Harris. With a better Act Two, what is already more than good could be great. Don't miss it. Through July 28. 3535 Main, 713-520-0055. — JJT

The Hollow The Alley has had 21 prior productions of Agatha Christie's plays, with The Hollow its 22nd. The set, designed by Linda Buchanan, is magnificent, the garden room of an imposing estate. The owner, Sir Henry Angkatell (James Black), is respectable but without warmth or charm. His wife, Lucy (Josie de Guzman), is absentminded, a bit dotty, bringing a delightful joie de vivre to the party. An actress, Veronica Craye (Laura E. Campbell), is played with fervor and an exaggerated style. Edward (Jay Sullivan) is a wealthy twit who proposes in the course of the play to two women and attempts suicide. Henrietta (Elizabeth Bunch) is an abstract sculptor, serious and glum. Midge Harvey (Emily Neves) is a poor-relation cousin too proud to accept financial aid from her very wealthy relatives, preferring to grumble about her uninteresting job. The butler, Gudgeon (Todd Waite), is angry throughout and speaks loudly. Diandra Langenbach as Doris, the maid, is persuasive. Guests are Dr. John Cristow (Mark Shanahan) and his wife Gerda (Melissa Pritchett); the plot revolves around them. Cristow appeals to the opposite sex, but he is brusque and stolid, and we don't see why. Gerda is clumsy, with no poise — Pritchett found the character and is irritating. Inspector Colquhoun (Lee Sellars) is a role with no relish, and David Matranga overplays the comic role of his assistant. The acting style is old-fashioned British: "Hit the mark and say your lines," and I kept searching — in vain, except for de Guzman — for signs that the actors believed for a minute what they were saying. This is a so-so script, without flair, intrigue or suspense, and a so-so production, except for a magnificent set and an exciting performance by Josie de Guzman. Through August 4. 615 Texas, 713-220-5700. — JJT

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