Modern-day themes fuel Wright State’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

Wright State presents librettist Joseph Stein s classic 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof, continuing in the Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center through Sunday, Nov. 19. CONTRIBUTED

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Wright State presents librettist Joseph Stein s classic 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof, continuing in the Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center through Sunday, Nov. 19. CONTRIBUTED

There’s more than tradition on the hearts and minds of those involved with Wright State University’s production of composer Jerry Bock, lyricist Sheldon Harnick and librettist Joseph Stein’s classic 1964 musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” continuing in the Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center through Sunday, Nov. 19.

The musical’s centerpiece has always been the touching and endearing account of Tevye, a poor dairyman coping with change in the tiny village of Anatevka on the eve of Russia’s revolutionary era, circa 1905. Even so, WSU is taking a deeper look at the story’s time period, tone, customs, and political/societal relevance as seen through the prism of today, specifically the growing global refugee crisis.

“This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to direct this outstanding musical,” said W. Stuart McDowell, WSU Artistic Director. “It’s been a joy from the first audition last spring. Our cast went home to do research on their roles on the period and also drew parallels to the current plight of refugees throughout the world, which is the final image of this very poignant and timeless musical. At the same time, the cast has been exploring the life of the Jewish community in the pale of Russia where ‘Fiddler’ takes place. We’ve attended Shabbat services, had discussions on the subject, and are drawing upon the rich heritage of the Jewish community, many of whom came to America over a century ago.”

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“The power (of this) material couldn’t be more relevant today,” added Megan Valle, who portrays Golde, Tevye’s stern yet devoted wife. “It’s a story about family and the struggle between keeping tradition and allowing for change. Our political climate is hostile today and this story touches upon a hostile time in Russia as well. However, it manages to bring a sense of hope but still packs a punch at the end. I want to be able to convey the power people have when they come together as a community and fight for one force, one love.”

Seen last season in "No, No, Nanette" and "The Children's Hour," Valle also hopes to give a fuller embodiment of Golde, a plum role that often takes a backseat to Tevye, his daughters and their suitors. As so, she has added more backstory and personal meaning to the character in order to create a detailed arc.

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“I really hope to give homage to the traditional Jewish shtetl culture of the mother archetype,” Valle said. “Golde is so strong and would do everything and anything for her family. I am channeling a huge strength within her. I’ve worked a lot with movement and physical work to connect to my personalization. I hope the mothers and wives can relate to me, and if I’ve affected one person, I’ve done my job.”

The large principal cast includes Joshua Beasley as Teyve, Kayli Modell as Tzeitel, Aaron Roitman as Motel, Danielle Beasler as Hodel, Kyle Miller as Perchik, Emma Buchanan as Chava, Philip Stock as Fydeka, Michaella Waickman as Shprintze, Dana Bixler as Bielke and Grandma Tzeitel, Isabella Andrews as Yente, Joe Green as Lazar Wolf, and Rachel Green as Fruma-Sarah.

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McDowell’s artistic team includes choreographer Teressa Wylie McWilliams, music director Scot Woolley, set designer David J. Castellano, lighting designer Matthew P. Benjamin, and costumer Naomi Reisner.

Bock and Harnick's gorgeous score, one of the finest in the musical theater canon, includes "Sunrise, Sunset," "Matchmaker," "Sabbath Prayer," "Miracle of Miracles," "Far From the Home I Love," and "If I Were a Rich Man."

“‘Fiddler’ is based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem and have a specific focus on the Jewish community at that time and place, but because of its universality it still speaks to us in the 21st century,” McDowell reminded.


WANT TO GO?

What: "Fiddler on the Roof"

When: Nov. 2-19; Nov. 2, 8, 9 and 16 at 7 p.m.; Nov. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 8 p.m.; and Nov. 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 2 p.m.

Where: Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Fairborn

Cost: $22 for adults; $20 for seniors and students

Tickets: Call (937) 775-2500 or visit https://liberal-arts.wright.edu/theatre-dance-and-motion-pictures/box-office.

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