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Home » Community » Traditional ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ offers relevant message of acceptance
MARBLE FALLS — For many years, the Marble Falls High School choral department has tackled some challenging musicals known for their elaborate productions and designs, including “Tarzan” (complete with a vine-swinging Tarzan), “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Seussical The Musical” among others.
So when the choir and school’s fine arts department open the doors Jan. 29 for the first night of their latest production, “Fiddler on the Roof,” it might not seem to have the same punch as previous shows — but don’t let that fool you.
For the musical’s strength lies not in fancy costumes, wild dances or technical gizmos but in its message. A message choir director Bryce Gage said echoes throughout today’s world as much as it did during the early 20th century, when “Fiddler” was set.
“Its message is so very poignant today when there are so many people around the world being persecuted,” Gage said. “There’s such a great message of redemption and acceptance in this play. It’s a message that resonants as much today as it did during the time the play is set in.”
“Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman in the Russian community of Anatevka in 1905. Tevye and his wife, Golde, are raising five daughters in a traditional Jewish home and community. With those traditions (the opening number spells it out quite well), come certain expectations for the young and old, men and women. These traditions form a layer of conflict among the characters as does the backdrop of Imperial Russia, which is beginning to expel Jews from their homes and villages.
All this mixes together for a great story and music.
Gage admitted that, though he’s seen “Fiddler on the Roof” before, he never really considered it for one of his high school productions. But then, he began to really peel back the meaning of the play and its music.
“It is a very traditional show, and I didn’t think that was something we would want to do,” he said. “But after I started studying it, I just thought this is more complex than it first appears and it has such a strong message.”
The next step was getting the students to get on the roof. After all, “Fiddler on the Roof” doesn’t feature a lot of large dance numbers or other things the students came to expect for shows. But, as Gage did, the students found this musical offered something very profound and meaningful.
“As they really started digging into the text, they came to love this show,” Gage said.
The production offered many other challenges despite not having quite as many complex dances or routines.
For one, the musical is set in Russia, so the question came up, “Do we have the students speak in a Russian accent or not?” Gage and co-choir director Jennie Lynn Hodges left that up to each student. While some grasped the accent, others just couldn’t get it down. If a student couldn’t quite nail the accent, they didn’t have to use it.
Then, there’s how to deal with the roles themselves, particularly the lead, Tevye. Over the years, many great actors performed the part. As part of that, audience members might show up with certain expectations for the role. In the school’s case, Wolf Williams landed the part of Tevye and understood the significance and the weight of the role.
As Williams took the stage during rehearsal of the opening scene and act, he quickly took viewers past his youthful age and brought forth the older Tevye. Williams’ mannerisms and physical movement was that of an older Russian man in a small village in the early 1900s. He carried himself, not as a teenager, but as a man worn down by a life of poverty and trying to fight for every bit of livelihood he could muster.
“Wolf knew from the beginning his hands were full because the people who have seen Tevye have this idea of what he should be like,” Gage said. “But Wolf has done a fantastic job making this his role.”
Playing Tevye’s wife, Golde, is Alyssa Anderson. While most people focus on Tevye’s part, one of the most memorable parts of the play is the constant jabbing and goading between Golde and Tevye. During rehearsal, Anderson and Williams demonstrate an ability to quickly feed off each other to the point one believes these are two people married for several decades, trying always to get the better of each other.
“The students have been remarkable,” Gage said. “We’ve had some issues such as dealing with illness and things, but they’ve just put all their heart into this play. I think they see the importance of the message.”
The Marble Falls High School production of “Fiddler on the Roof” opens Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. with shows Jan. 31 at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. All the shows are in the high school auditorium, 2101 Mustang Drive in Marble Falls. For reservations, go to mfhs.ss3.sharpschool.com or call (830) 798-3664. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for youth.
Gage said he hopes everyone who sees the musical leaves with a different way of looking at the world and the people in it.
“I hope that people take away the ability to learn to be more accepting and forgiving,” he said. “Because acceptance and forgiveness will be our only true savior.”