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Topol misses 'Fiddler' matinee Sunday at the Pantages

July 27, 2009 |  4:30 pm
Topol Fiddler

Fans of Topol -- that is, Chaim Topol, the 73-year-old actor who has been portraying Tevye the dairyman in "Fiddler On The Roof" since age 30 -- were disappointed Sunday when the actor did not appear in the 2 p.m. matinee performance of "Fiddler" at the Pantages Theatre due to illness. The actor was sufficiently recovered to perform in Sunday evening's 7:30 p.m. show.

Some ticket holders who either phoned The Times or offered their comments via Culture Monster were particularly frustrated because they did not learn until about 10 minutes before the curtain went up that understudy David Brummel, who regularly plays the role of Lazar Wolf, would be stepping in for Topol. Several were enticed by the show's billing as not only a performance of the popular musical but as a "Last Chance" to see Topol in "Fiddler on the Roof," a "once in a lifetime opportunity."

Culture Monster spoke with one of those disgruntled patrons, Jim Carcioppolo, who lives in the San Francisco area and came south to take his mother, who lives in West Hills, to the show. He said his family chose to ask for a refund, but then decided not to continue to wait in line for a refund because "it was 95 degrees, my mother is 83 and there were 75 people ahead of me."

"It seems to me they could have notified the patrons before they entered the seating area," he continued. "Instead they waited until everyone was seated."

He still plans to exercise his option to send the tickets back to Ticketmaster for a refund.

On Monday, Martin Wiviott, general manager of Broadway/L.A. and the Pantages Theatre, said through a spokesman that audiences did not get more advance notice of Topol's illness because the decision that he would be unable to perform did not occur until less than a half-hour before the show. Notices were posted at ticket windows and on the theater's entrance doors 10 minutes before the show, and an announcement was made over the loudspeaker in the theater about 10 minutes before the curtain rose.

As is standard policy for Broadway/L.A.'s presentations at the Pantages, when a performer's name is above the title on the program and promotional materials, ticket holders are offered the option of exchanging the tickets for another performance or a full refund if that performer cannot go on. In this case, the theater offered 11 refunds and 86 ticket exchanges at the ticket windows.

Spokesman Wayne McWorter said that those who stayed for the matinee gave understudy Brummel a standing ovation.

Oh, and by the way: Despite the promotional hyperbole, the run at the Pantages is not the "last chance," "once in a lifetime opportunity" for Southern California to see Topol in his signature role. The actor will portray Tevye Aug. 11-23 at Orange County Performing Arts Center's Segerstrom Hall -- once again, billed as Topol in "Fiddler on the Roof."

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Topol as Tevye in the touring production of "Fiddler on the Roof."  Credit: Joan Marcus

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