Fiddler on the Roof has long been thought of as one of Broadway's best — a show that appeals to many a generation, touching on the universal themes of tradition, teenage rebellion, romance, marriage and religious persecution.
Opening on Broadway in September 1964, Fiddler delivered well-known tunes such as Matchmaker, Matchmaker, If I Were a Rich Man and wedding favorite Sunrise, Sunset. The Broadway musical that featured Zero Mostel in the title role of Tevye earned 10 Tony Awards and set records for the longest-running show, for more than 3,200 consecutive performances.
With 72 cast members preparing to take the stage this weekend, a local production of Fiddler might just be an example of community theater at its best — or at least its most authentic — with the opening of the Gilbert and Sullivan Players' presentation on Friday at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center.
"People came out of the woodwork to audition," said Jamie Bierchen who directs the show along with musical director Constantine Grame and choreographer Jane Russell Geddings.
The Players' summer productions are typically a big attraction for stage seekers who might otherwise not have the time to devote to the many rehearsals that go into a musical, Bierchen said. He should know, having directed productions of The King and I, The Music Man, Oliver! and last year's award-winning Carousel. "We have a lot of kids that are now out of school — people who work for the school system."
Bierchen found a spot on stage for most all of them as well as a place on the roof for "Fiddler" Eric Nordstrom, a violinist who plays regularly with the Florida Orchestra and has toured with performers such as Rod Stewart and Josh Groban.
Colman Reaboi, cantor and spiritual leader of Congregation B'nai Emmunah in Tarpon Springs, plays the starring role of Tevye, a pondering milkman and father of five daughters, three of whom are coming of age just as his world is beginning to crumble around him with the growth of anti-Semitism in czarist Russia at the turn of the 20th century.
The milkman's struggles play out in the fictional, tight-knit village of Anatevka where he lives with his daughters and his loyal, yet independent-minded wife, Golde (Tara Hilderbrandt).
Tevye's three oldest daughters — Tzeitel (Marissa Jo Kraus), Hodel (Brianna Lynn Filippelli) and Chava (Lauren Leech) — are a rebellious lot who make him question his long-held values. They choose true love over the matchmaking tradition that brought their parents together for the first time on their wedding day.
The show, full of humorous, tender and some somber moments, and some somber, and is the perfect way to wrap up the city's annual Summer Solstice arts program, said Gen Crosby, marketing and communications coordinator for Tarpon Springs Cultural Treasures.
"Everyone loves Fiddler. The music is so fun to sing," she said. "This is a really big show. We have a lot of people in it, a lot of families, a lot of kids dragging their parents on the stage."
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]