Theater Info for the Washington DC region

James Madison High School Fiddler on the Roof

By • May 6th, 2008 • Category: Cappies

In the small Russian village of Anatevka, the impoverished villagers lives are like “a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.” From the beginning of the play, where a fiddler stands atop a barn playing a simple tune, James Madison High School’s spring production of Fiddler on the Roof explores this metaphor and its meaning.

Fiddler on the Roof opened in 1964 on Broadway, sweeping the Tony’s for that same year. It broke records as the longest running musical on Broadway at the time (only being passed by Grease in 1979) staring Zero Mostel as Tevye and Maria Karnilova as his wife Golde. The show centers around the lives of Tevye and his five daughters at the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia. Times are changing, and as the daughters grow older each moves father away from the honored traditions of their parents. The show is a brilliant blend of comedy and drama, with a profound ending and a powerful story. Combined with music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Madison’s cast attempts to give laughter and meaning to the play.

The acting in the cast as a whole was very strong. Trey Ervine had no trouble portraying the lead role of Tevye; he created a believable character that the audience could laugh with as well as cry with. McKenna Weipert played the eldest daughter Tzeitel with ease, opposite the adorably shy tailor Motel portrayed by the talented comedian Torsten Peterson. This was augmented by the passionate acting of Julia Addis-Lieser and Jordana Sapiurka, playing the other daughters Hodel and Chava, as well as Dorothy Raskind as the old Yiddish matchmaker. Yente played her role so well it was hard to imagine she is only in high school. Although the solos and duets in the musical were not quite as strong as they could have been, the choral numbers were amazing with diction and tone that sounded professional. This was shown in the final chorus number, “Anatevka” in which the sad villagers mourn their poor village. It was truly a moving ending.

The technical aspects of the show were demanding. Working without a pit, the orchestra performed backstage, a definite challenge. They made up for it however with good tone and rhythm. Despite a few historical inaccuracies, the set done by Amanda Baldassari, Chris Weschler, McKenna Weipert, and Trey Ervine gave the feeling of a rural Russian village, supported by the lighting by Laura Firey. Make-up (by Katie Stolp and Megan Stolp) and costumes (by Sarah Polchow) gave authenticity to the characters and aided the story. All the technical aspects synchronized well with the show.

During the first act all five daughters question whether they will ever find their match: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker look through your book, and make me a perfect match.” Madison High School might just have found their perfect match in this production!

by Andrea Beschel of Duke Ellington

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