When Fiddler on the Roof debuted on Broadway in 1964, it was as theatrically ground-breaking as 1927's Show Boat and 1957's West Side Story.
Like those classics - and unlike most zany Broadway musicals of the time - Fiddler seriously addresses prejudice, persecution and cultural differences. Though the stories are filled with love and laughter, they also have their share of tragedy and sorrow, even death.
Show Palace Dinner Theatre opens its third presentation of the beloved Fiddler on Sept. 18 for an unprecedented nine-week run. The theater did the show in 1998 and again in 2000 to increasingly larger audiences.
The story takes place in the tiny, impoverished Jewish village of Anatevka, Russia, in 1905, where the philosophical dairyman Tevye (Joshua Sussman) wonders why he was born poor (If I Were a Rich Man), even as his wife, Golde (Birdie Newman Katz), wonders how village matchmaker Yente (Susan Haldeman) can find proper husbands for their five daughters, and the daughters wonder how they can attract good husbands without any dowries (Matchmaker, Matchmaker).
It is assumed in Anatevka that, in accordance with Tradition, papa will pick those husbands.
Eldest daughter Tzeitel (Megan Wheeler) challenges that tradition when she picks her own husband, the tailor Motel (Robert Micheli), never mind that Tevye has already chosen the well-to-do middle-aged butcher Lazar Wolf (Rick Kistner) for her.
Things become more complicated when second daughter Hodel (Lisa Bark) - on her own - chooses radical teacher Perchik (Zachary D. Gregus) as her betrothed.
Tevye's world is shattered, however, when third daughter Chava (Adrienne Bergeron) announces that she plans to marry a Russian soldier, Fyedka (Shane Daniel Lord), who is not Jewish. Such an act would sever her from the family forever.
Many problems other than the choice of a husband are going on, though: religious persecution, police brutality and ethnic cleansing, for example - events that challenge Tevye's faith, values and beliefs.
Sussman, who also played Tevye in the Show Palace's 2000 production of Fiddler, is now artistic director of the Masque Community Theatre in Temple Terrace. Katz has performed at Maine State Music Theatre since 1998 and appeared in several television shows, including Empire Falls with the late Paul Newman.
Supporting players include Show Palace favorites Troy Lafon as Nachum, the Beggar, his 51st role at the Show Palace; Derek Baxter (the principal in This Magic Moment) as Avram, the Bookseller; and Stefani Wells Laporta (Cousin Fan in Mame) as Fruma-Sarah.
Artistic director Matthew McGee is directing the show; musical director is Michael Ursua; and choreographer is Chris Sell, co-owner of Sell's Broadway Dance Company in New Port Richey.
* * *
IF YOU GO
'Fiddler on the Roof'
Where: Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson
When: Matinees and evenings Sept. 18 to Nov. 15
Tickets: Dinner and show, $46; show only, $34.95; ages 12 and younger, $28.45 and $23.45, all plus tax and tip. Call (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll-free 1-888-655-7469 elsewhere.