The recent play on campus, Fiddler on the Roof, which was staged from March 26-29, proves that we are lucky to have such an incredible Fine and Performing Arts Department at WCU.
This spring’s play was faced with some considerable expectation, which Fiddler met and exceeded. Famous songs like “Tradition,” “Matchmaker” and “If I Were a Rich Man,” along with Terrance Mann’s impressive reputation in directing previous work such as “Guys and Dolls,” and his acting in “War of the Worlds,” led to such expectations.
Based loosely on a short story by Sholom Aleichem, Fiddler on the Roof is set in 1905 Russia during the revolution against the Czar of Russia and feelings of anti-Semitism. The play centers around the poor milkman Tevye (Gregory Kennedy), his wife Golde (Christy Waymouth) and his five daughters Tzeitel (Emily Gill,) Hodel (Tina DeSoto,) Chava (Abby Gonzales,) Shprintze (Amanda Kouri,) and Bielke (Rachael Affron,) who live in Anatevka, Russia. The Fiddler represents the spirit of the Jews, as their life is as dangerous and uncertain as a fiddler trying to play perched on a roof.
Fiddler is a story about love, family, community and the human spirit as told through the stories of Tevya’s three oldest daughters who, in three different ways, exemplify the traditions of the Jewish community, the conflict between the Jews and the Russians and the importance of their faith to the Jewish people.
In a world where all marriages are arranged by a matchmaker, Tzeitel is able to arrange a marriage for herself with the poor tailor Motel (Terry Evans.) Hodel becomes engaged to a radical teacher Perchick (John R. Raines) who tries to inspire Communism against the Czar, and Chava marries Russian soldier Fyedka (Jon Cowart.) Their father must challenge his own beliefs and trust his own good nature and God to help his family survive the Russians forcing the Jews to leave their homes.
Kennedy, who stars as Tevya, does an incredible job of capturing Tevya’s heartfelt nature and hilarious wit, particularly with lines like “May He smite me (with money) and may I never recover!” and his memorable performance of “If I Were a Rich Man.”
The Fiddler, played by William Ritter, left us following his amusing movements with laughs and impressed gaping mouths.
The entire cast really caught the spirit of the show, particularly Gill, DeSoto and Gonzales as Tevya’s oldest, along with their love interests Evans, Raines, and Cowart. The choreography, under the direction of New York Ballet’s former principal dancer Christopher d’Amboise, was stunning. Every actor leapt into beautiful sequences for “Tradition,” “The Dream” and “the Wedding Dance” that could only come from a Tony Award nominee like d’Amboise.
The play leaves us feeling like we want to be part of the community of Anatevka while making us grateful that we are not (hopefully) subject to an arranged marriage. I was very glad to have seen it, particularly because it was the last major production I will see here as an undergraduate student.