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Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Book by Joseph Stein

Rockwall Summer Musicals

Directed by Paula Morelan
Music Director Alan Clark
Choreographer: Julie Russell Stanley
Producer Judith Head
Production Chair and Set Design: Michael Poston
Sound: Robert Frazier
Lighting: Will Elphingstone
Props: Karen James
Makeup Artist: Chloe Poston
Costume Designer: Wiloni Darrington
Costumers: Mary Nicoles, Palmer Ragsdale, Jennifer Wallace, Molly Jellic, Theresa Curtis
Debra Hohosh, Virginia Johnson, Kimberly McClenney

Tevye: Alidor Lefere
Golde: Emily Reyna Croy
Tzeitel: Raegan Vaughn
Hodel: Sierra Otto
Chava: Whitney St. John-Gilbert
Shprintze: Kate Dillingham
Bielke: Eliza Lane
Yente: Camille Long
Perchik: Clayton Sackett
Motel: Karl Martin
Lazar Wolf: Paul Alan Burnam
The Fiddler: La Jourdain Rose
Rabbi: Kurtis Williams
Grandma Tzeitel: Celia Rogers
Fruma-Sarah: Sheresa Tuggle
Constable: Matthew James Edwards
Mordcha, the Innkeeper: Rod James
Russian Tenor: Al Wall
Avram, the Bookseller: Jonathan Oefelein
Nachum, the Beggar: Danny Oursbourn
Priest: Micheal Poston
Yussel, the Hat Maker: Scott Croy
Sasha: Ryan Ramirez
Shaindel: Karen James
Fyedka: Argel “Neptune” Gutierrez
Mendel: Noah Scibana
Villagers: Skylar Duvall (Dance Captain), Danielle Haines (Understudy), Jack McClenney, Joseph Arce, Holly Grace Gaddy, Melissa Feldman, Cheree Harper, Tiffany Dunkin, Chloe Poston, Maddy Grimes, Conner Ellis, Tanner Diggs, Zane Sujansky, Alidor P. Lefere V, Benjamin F. Lefere

Light Crew: Eric Armstrong (board operator), Jace Tucker, Kyle Strickland
Moving Crew: Jacob Poston, Marshall Clowers
Stage Crew: Austin Rayburn, Crystal Persall, Jerry Persall, Julia Witty, Savannah Rayburn, Sloan Johnson

Reviewed Performance: 7/1/2017

Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia in 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family's lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love – each one's choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of his faith – and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village.

The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. It remains Broadway's 16th in history. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful 1971 film adaptation, and the show has enjoyed enduring international popularity. It is also a very popular choice for school and community productions.

Although FIDDLER ON THE ROOF takes place at the turn of the 19th century in a small Jewish village in Russia, it proves its timeliness and appeal to modern day audiences once again in this production by the Rockwall Summer Musicals. Parents today can identify with Tevye as he deals with his five headstrong daughters, bemoans the loss of family traditions, and struggles to maintain his position of “The Papa”, in the village of Anatevka in 1905, where their lives are as precarious as the “perch of a fiddler on a roof.”

This is a thoroughly charming production of this time-honored show, first brought to Broadway in 1964. But perhaps a word here about Rockwall Summer Musicals is appropriate. It is quite unique in that it is a true joining of community theatre and educational theatre with the purpose of producing plays and conducting intergenerational theatrical workshops from May to August each year. “Our unique ‘mentoring’ instructional approach provides an educational experience that cannot be reproduced in the classroom. Pairing students with working artisans in our own community creates a learning experience that cannot be duplicated during the school year.” Each summer, RSM produces two musicals and mounts them onstage at the Rockwall High School Performing Arts Complex at Utley Middle school in Rockwall, a simply jaw dropping educational theatre facility. And if FIDDLER is any kind of example (it was this reviewer’s first experience at RSM), and she feels rather certain it is, this concept is working theatre magic!

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is undoubtedly one of the most-loved and most-produced musicals in the history of musical theatre in this country. The central character, Tevye, is deftly portrayed in this production by Alidore Lafere, who is big in stature, big in characterization and big in voice, though soft in heart, just as the role requires. His counterpoint, his wife Golde, is played with just the proper amount of tartness by Emily Reyna Croy. She and Tevye jerk your heart strings on the duet “Do I Love You?”

First of the five daughters to fly in the face of the tradition of marriage arranged by the village matchmaker, Tzeitel is played charmingly by Raegan Vaughn. She displays a strong voice and convincing characterization, begging her father to let her marry Motel rather than the wealthy butcher Lazar Wolf who has already made arrangements for their marriage. Sierra Otto as second sister Hotel is convincing as the real rebel of the family, not only choosing her own husband but choosing a political revolutionary, then leaving her family to follow him to Siberia. The other three sisters, Chava, Shprintze, and Bielke are endearingly portrayed by Whitney-St. John-Gilbert, Kate Dillingham and Eliza Lane, respectively.

The young men who fill out romantic interest to the sisters, Motel and Perchik are convincingly played by Clayton Slackett and Karl Martin. Angel “Neptune” Gutierrez joins them as Fyedka who steals Chava’s heart and elopes with her. Exciting voices, and spirited characterizations mark these three young men as performers to keep an eye on.

Rounding out the main characters, the matchmaker Yente, cannot be overlooked. Camille Long gives the character of the over-the-top village busy body just the right touch. And Paul Alan Burnam as Lazar Wolf brings a strong voice and musical background to round out his character to perfection. Sheresa Tuggle flies about (literally) in Tevye’s nightmare, and is wildly convincing as the dead wife of Lazar Wolf, warning him not to marry Tzeitel.

There are so many other characters that need mentioning, but this reviewer must beg time and space and say this: Everything and Everyone, from Tevye to the many villagers are well-rounded characters with voices necessary to carry the message of the music. Dances are breath-taking, especially the bottle dance, which is often cut from the production due to its difficulty. Much kudos to Choreographer Julie Russell Stanley and Dance Captain Skylar Duvall.

Sets are minimal and suggestive and seamlessly changed from scene to scene. Tevye’s milk cart becomes the focal prop, old, heavy, an object to be dragged from place to place, much as some of the old ideas of tradition become bogged down in the changing times and political climate.

This reviewer does not wish to overlook congratulations to every single member of this production, but must call special recognition to La Jourdain Rose, the epic Fiddler of the title. Tiny, elf-like, Rose weaves in and out of the action, never the center of attention, never noticed, but always there. She represents the precariousness of all our lives: fortunes can turn on a dime, marriage plans become tenuous, and dreams can become hindered by external forces, but life goes on.

This production is close to flawless and that is quite the accomplishment as this musical is difficult, both in characterizations and vocal requirements and this cast pulled that off. Special recognition must, of course, go to the director Paula Morelan. Morelan has a long dance, theatre and musical theatre resume and she obviously applies all of expertise to this cast and this production. It is no easy task to meld experienced performers with young, eager artists to not just yield a stage worthy show but to facilitate the sharing of theatrical and musical training between the two. Ms. Morelan not only pulls this off but brings the audience out of their seats to acknowledge the outcome.

Music Director Alan Clark returns for his third season with RSM. His background in not just music but also theatre and musical theatre adds the substance and depth necessary for FIDDLER.

This reviewer’s only regret concerning this show is that it is over. But Rockwall Summer Musicals will move on to Peter Pan in August!

1201 T L Townsend Dr. Rockwall, TX 75087