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I went to see Fiddler on the Roof presented by El Dorado High School on Saturday November 7th at 7:00 pm. The playwright is Sheldon Harnick, the composer is Jerry Bock, and the performance was authorized by Music Theatre International. The play was directed by Katie Banks-Todd who also directed the music. The choreographer was Joshua Larson. The stage construction was by Matt, Guthrie, Evan Unruh, and the EHS Drama Crew. The lighting designer was Arthur Reece. The light board operator was Adam Haines. The costumes were designed by Sharon Funk and Madeline Sammons. The stage manager was Riley Provo. The dance captain was Kylie Gregg.The spot light operators were Erica Sparks and Cherokee Reagan. The lights are accredited to Adam Haines and Nicholas Heilman. The sound is accredited to Evan Unruh and Ridge Towner. The musicians were two pianists, Sharon Bell and Linda Montgomery, a percussionist, Wade Burtchett, and a student violinist, Alli Bieberle.
The theatre architecture was a wide open stage with a large house that could rotate and open and close. This served as the main setting for the majority of the play. The main characters included Tevye, the father of the family, Golde, Tevye’s wife, Tzeitel, the oldest daughter, Hodel, the second daughter, Chava, the third daughter, Motel, the poor tailor, Lazar Wolf, the butcher, Perchik, the student teacher, and Fyedka, a Russian soldier. The cast includes Clay Voisin as Tevye, Emma Staats as Golde, Abby Staats as Tzeitel, Mary Gomez as Hodel, Ryan Sherman as Chava, Seth Knowles as Motel, Colton Goodon as Lazar Wolf, Matt Heideman as Perchik, and Joey Jones as Fyedka. It was in a musical style with a genre of seriousness and politics. It is structured in two acts each with nine scenes lasting a total of two and a half hours unincluding the intermission. The basis of the story is that Tevye is a father who is a strong upholder of traditions, but has to face the conflicts of his three daughters straying from the path. The setting is the little Russian town of Anatevka in which the Jewish community lives in fear of the Russian military.
The overall themes are still very relatable to a modern day audience. The overarching theme begins with a strong belief in religion. The characters all show great devotion to God, including Tevye, who is constantly shown monologuing a humorous prayer showing his inner turmoil. The second main theme is adhere to tradition and whether or not we should allows follow what has always been done before. For instance, why marry a man you hardly know when you could stray from tradition and marry your best friend? This is relevant to modern day especially with children growing into adult and deciding if they want to continue to live the way their parents taught them to live or if they want to diverge from the path and try something new. The third theme involves family and love. Even when they were forced to leave their village, what family remained tried to protect one another and keep together. In terms of love, there is a scene in which Tevye questions whether love can arise from an arranged marriage such as his own, and in its own way, it did.
The show begins with Tevye and his milk wagon introducing the town and its traditions to the audience. After delivering his wares he meets a young student, Perchik, who is a foreigner with very different views from him. Even so he finds favor with Tevye and Tevye offers him room and board in exchange for teaching his daughters. He returns home to find his wife nagging about how he should visit Lazar Wolf, of whom he is not very fond of. Nevertheless he agrees to visit him later. As they prepare dinner, Tzeitel’s friend Motel arrives after which Tzeitel tries to persuade Motel to ask her dad for permission to marry her. Motel isn’t very fond of this idea just yet but follows along anyway. Motel tries but is too consumed with preparing the Sabbath.
The next scene is a musical number called Sabbath Prayer in which all the family members, Motel, and Perchik, stand around the table and pray. The music grew very mysterious in the way that a church organ fills an entire church but still sounds hollow. The music in Fiddler on the Roof constantly switches between major and minor tonality and this song was no exception. The voices of Tevye and Golde, played by Clay and Emma, really drew me in and for a moment I forgot that I was sitting in the audience and felt as if I was in the scene with them. The atmosphere was really unsettling to the point that you could focus on nothing else but their song. As the piece neared its ending, the other villagers entered the stage holding candles with real flames allowing for the flickering of shadows that added to the atmosphere.
Next Tevye visits Lazar Wolf, who asks him if he could marry his daughter Tzeitel. Tevye, surprised by his misunderstanding, agrees and they both go to celebrate at the local bar. This next scene is my favorite in the film and the live production did it justice. The scene was laid out with two major tables with the Russian soldiers on one side and Tevye and Lazar wolf on the other side. The Russians were sitting on the table and dancing and one of them bumps into Tevye initiating the dance number. The clothing of the Russian soldiers contrasted greatly with the townspeople. The townspeople wore very loosely held together pieces of fabric while the soldiers wore a single piece suit with boots. The soldiers were very fit and athletic, they were doing floor kicks and cartwheels and somersaults. The soldiers did not speak but communicated through their dance. When Tevye bumped into the star soldier, he began a dance solo and then extended out his hand to Tevye. After taking it, both danced as a pair and moved in a circle around stage. Others joined in creating a multilayer ring system moving in different directions. The soldiers climbed on the table and jumped down and danced towards the townspeople, in which the townspeople walked towards them. In response the soldiers walked backwards and both teams swayed back and forth in this manner multiple times. The scene seemed like it went on for a very long time. I kept expecting it to end but it would just continue until Tevye and Lazar Wolf sounded very drunk.
After learning that she was engaged to Lazar Wolf, Tzeitel revealed her love for Motel in Tevye reluctantly agreed to allow them both to marry. To convince his wife to agree, he devised a dream in which his Grandma prophesied that Tzeitel should marry “the poor tailor Motel Kamzoil.” This scene was the greatest spectacle of the entire show. It included his Grandmother on a tall staircase being spun around and proclaiming to the world that Tzeitel and Lazar Wolf were not meant to be. She had long grey hair and bright white long flowing robes. She almost appeared to play the part of an angry witch much like in the Wizard of Oz. Tevye awoke very started but when his wife went back to sleep he appeared to smile revealing the true nature of the dream.
The next scene that really caught my attention was the Wedding scene in which men and women cannot be on the same side of the room. After much dancing, the men’s side began the famous Bottle Dance but the overall spectacle of it was lacking since they were lacking proper musical suspense and had very little choreography. What really caught my attention was when Perchik crossed into the other side of the room and danced with Hodel. Again Tevye reluctantly agrees stating it would not be pleasant to turn down a dance at this daughter’s wedding. He even tricks the Rabbi into dancing with his daughter went everyone exchanges partners. Eventually there are many pairs of men and women dancing together while the young children on the right protest with appalled faces. Again there was an interweaving of dancers going different directions and spinning and changing partners. It seemed all very festive until the Russian military raids the party and destroys their precious wedding gifts bringing everyone back to reality.
The piano accompanist were both excellent considering the small instrumentation. The percussionist only played the drum set but he was able to heighten the tension with constant bass drum beats or cymbal crashes. The violinist was very young and awfully out of tune. When she played her solo emulating the violin player onstage, she was atleast a whole note away from the pitch of the pianos. It made each of her songs sound very dissonant and unsettling.
My favorite actor had to be Tevye. With his hair grown out and his very realistic beard, he really lived inside of his part. He looked up to “God” with pain in his eyes as each of his daughters went against his will. His character was very condescending in his prayer monologues often stating the ironic. One of my favorite quotes of his well written wit is that if money is a curse than let God smite me with it. He is the most faithful of the cast often quoting from “the Good Book,” even when he gets the names mixed up. The way that his character feels really resonates with the audience. All of his hardships feel real in a way that makes the audience feel like they are him. His actor, Clay Voisin, portrayed his mixed feelings of love for his daughters and belief in tradition very well. The play lasted a long time, but its overall production value was high enough that I would want to see it a second time. I left the theatre feeling very different about life than when I entered which goes to show just how well the cast was able to portray Tevye and his three daughters’ struggles.
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