Woodminster Summer Musicals opens its 46th season at 8 p.m. Friday in Oakland's Joaquin Miller Park with "Fiddler on the Roof." Along with the other two shows this summer season -- "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (Aug. 10-19) and "Cats" (Sept. 7-16) -- it is one of the most-requested musicals by audience members, who do influence the season selection, according to managing director Harriet Schlader.
"Fiddler," based on Sholem Aleichem's story "Tevye the Milkman and Other Tales," has been a constant hit with audiences since it opened on Broadway in 1964 with Zero Mostel in the role of Tevye. People fell in love with Mostel, and "Fiddler" went on to be a multiple Tony Award-winner and the first Broadway show to run for more than 3,000 performances.
A wide range of other actors have taken the role of the milkman in the Tsarist Russian shtetl of Anatevka in 1905. It seems hard to believe now, but before the show opened, the creators and producers were concerned that "Fiddler" might be too ethnic, and perhaps too much of a downer for general audiences. Obviously, they were wrong.
Among those who pulled the milk cart after Mostel were Herschel Bernardi, Chaim Topol, Alfred Molina and Harvey Fierstein, who replaced Molina and later Topol, who injured himself during a roadshow run. Fierstein, whose unusual voice made him an unlikely performer for Tevye, performed the role in San Francisco several years ago. Also of note are
What really assured "Fiddler's" success is an irresistible story of a man trying to keep his daughters following village tradition in spite of changing times and the threat of eviction from the village by Tsarist forces. Added to this is an amazing musical score that includes "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset," "If I Were a Rich Man," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and "To Life."
The Woodminster production plays July 13-22 in the outdoor theater at 3300 Joaquin Miller Road, Oakland. Show times are at 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays, as well as 8 p.m. July 19. Tickets, at $27-$56, may be reserved at 510-531-9597 or www.woodminster.com.
'WEST SIDE STORY': The 1957 musical based on "Romeo and Juliet" but set amid the gangs of New York's Upper West Side, opens at Contra Costa Civic Theatre on July 13.
The production is directed by company managing director Daren A.C. Carollo and choreographed by artistic director Derrick J. Silva, marking the first collaboration between the two men. The show will also feature the largest orchestra in the company's 52-year history. Directed by Sean Kana, the orchestra will try to replicate the sound of the 40-musician orchestras that played in the show's debut and its 1960, 1980 and 2009 revivals.
The show runs through Aug. 12 at the theater at 951 Pomona Ave, El Cerrito. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays with Thursday performances at 8 p.m. July 26 and Aug. 9. Tickets, at $15-$27, may be reserved at 510-524-9132 or www.ccct.org.
LIVERMORE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL: The festival's 10th anniversary season opens at 8 p.m. July 13 with a performance of "Hamlet" in Livermore's Concannon Vineyard.
"Hamlet" will be followed with the second play, Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor," opening July 20. The two plays will be staged in repertory through Aug. 12; show times are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays. All performances will be in the Vineyard at 4590 Tesla Road, Livermore. Tickets, at $25-$39 (with an opening night benefit dinner at $90), may be reserved at 800-838-3006 or www.LivermoreShakes.org.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and the
Chocolate Factory": The musical by Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse and Tim McDonald plays July 14-Aug. 19 at the Julia Morgan Theatre, 2640 College Ave., Berkeley.
Tickets are $17-$35;
510-845-8542, ext. 351, or
"Oklahoma!" Rodgers and Hammerstein's Wild West classic plays July 21-Aug. 5 at the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore. The Tri-Valley Repertory production plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets, at $27.50-$37.50, may be reserved at