Either on stage or on celluloid, Fiddler on the Roof has been performed professionally each decade since it first hit Broadway in 1964.
One could look back fondly at Fiddler becoming the first musical to surpass 3,000 stage performances, which made it the longest running Broadway musical until Grease.
Fiddler has also won best musical, best score, best book, best direction and best choreography on its way to nine Tony Awards. And it has returned to Broadway five times.
Oh, and it was made into a film in 1971.
Perhaps Mingus Union High School’s talented young actors and actresses known at A.T.O.R.T. will one day perform Fiddler on Broadway – or in a cinematic remake.
But from April 22-30, the crew known as ‘A Troupe Of Ridiculous Thespians’ will perform Fiddler on Mingus Union’s main stage.
‘Long been a favorite’
Fiddler, which has “long been a favorite” of A.T.O.R.T. Director James Ball, follows the story of a Jewish milkman and his family as they struggle with both anti-Semitism and changing traditions.
“I couldn’t think of a better classic to end this year with,” says Ball.
Preparing the troupe for Fiddler’s opening night and subsequent shows, Ball said he has “really enjoyed learning about all of the customs, words, beliefs, and rituals of the Jewish culture in 1905.”
And for the sake of authenticity, Ball asked a local Rabbi to “come in to watch the show and make sure we were doing everything correctly.”
‘Laugh and cry’
Referring to his cast and crew, Ball says that Fiddler “has come together in the most wonderful way.”
“I have never had a large-cast musical create such a strong sense of community on stage,” Ball says. “It makes the ending of this show very impactful to watch. Individually we have some strong leads that make me laugh and cry each time I watch this show. Which is too many to count at this point.”
The cast of Fiddler is made up of Ethan Miller as Tevye, Aubrie Odegard as Golde, Joanna Westling as Tzeitel, Audrey Worden as Hodel, Olivia Gordon, Makaylah Smith as Shprintze, Kylie Bailey as Bielke, Ben Fraher as Motel, Jacob Kline as Perchik, Noah Detwiler as Fyedka, Malia Duarte as Yente the Matchmaker, Preston Chalmers as the Inn Kepper, Zeke Collins as Avram, Destry Aston as Nahum the beggar, Encino Cervantez as the Rabbi, Zayne Hirsch as Medel, Mina Renard as Grandma Tzeitel, Vanessa Alcala as Fruma-Sarah, Sonny DeCrosta as the Constable, and Derek Sprague as Lazar Wolf.
The cast also includes an ensemble: Cristian Huerta, Chris Andre, Johnny Tebbets, Tianna Lohmiller, Melody Brown, Harlei Bouwman, Brianda Chairez, Aubrey Boulet, Valerie Brenes, Kaitlyn Hicks, Riley Lucas and Olivia Reinhold.
About the cast
The following are comments from Ball about some of the Fiddler cast:
Ethan Miller: “His combination of wit, humor, love, compassion and the eternal struggle of the changing times are as prominent today as they were in 1905 Russia.”
Olivia Gordon: “Her voice, acting and sweet disposition make her stand out this year.”
Audrey Worden: “Audrey’s voice is so velvety sweet it will make your heart melt. She has truly tapped into her character’s love of her family and the pining to live with the love her life, Perchik.”
Joanna Westling: “This is her first leading role, and while Joanna herself is the youngest of ten, she commands the eldest role with wit, compassion, and overflowing emotion for her character’s love.”
Ben Fraher: “[He] has been loved and adored over his four years in our program. From his humble beginnings as Arvide Abernathy in Guys and Dolls, to winning two state shows as a leading character and becoming everybody’s favorite fake aunt in Charley’s Aunt in January, his portrayal of Motel is that of a seasoned pro.
What the cast is saying
Ethan Miller: “This is by far my favorite character I have performed here at Mingus. My favorite part of this musical is embracing a new culture and lifestyle. I am most excited to have the audience be able to see such a different lifestyle of the Hebrew culture of 1905.
Aubrie Odegard: “I love being able to learn about a different culture and their family dynamics. It’s a really interesting learning process. It’s amazing that I will be able to say that Fiddler on the Roof will be my last show at Mingus, and I am incredibly grateful to have been given such a rich and challenging role.”
Ben Fraher: “I have been a part of Mingus Theatre since I was a freshman, and a part of theatre in general for even longer. This is my senior year, and this program has become more rewarding every year. I play Model the Tailor, [whose] heart is the biggest part of this character. It’s what drives him to overcome his fears, doubts, and shortcomings.”
Joanna Westling: “Fiddler on the Roof has been a phenomenal learning experience for me. Luckily, I got it easy, and I act across from my real life boyfriend, Ben Fraher, who plays Motel, the tailor. It has been so utterly amazing acting with him and my fellow actors. I’m so proud of what this show has become and the wonderful people involved. Everyone has put their hearts and souls into it, which shows in our performances.”
In search of authenticity
It’s not enough to have outstanding talent up on stage. Without the right set, a performance just wouldn’t look authentic.
That’s why Assistant Director Ashly Lawler says that props “help to tell the story.”
“Actors are able to make connections and discoveries with them, and they help to transport the audience to another time and place,” Lawler says. “After watching a few run-throughs of the show and seeing the direction of where the students wanted their characters to go, I was able to get an idea of things that would help them tell the story.”
Lawler says that her search for just the right props led her to antique stores, old barns, garage sales, thrift shops, junk yards, and “even some dusty attics.”
“These authentic tools and antique items really help the setting and characters feel realistic,” Lawler says. “I am so appreciative to the community for helping with my search. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with glowing reports about the theater program, and also with donations and lower prices to help with the show.”
Mingus Union High School’s A Troupe Of Ridiculous Thespians will present Fiddler on the Roof at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 22; 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23; 7 p.m. Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30.
Tickets are available at www.showtix4u.com or by e-mailing Mingus Union theater teacher and director James Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call the box office at 928-649-4466.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for senior citizens, $9 for students and children. All tickets are $2 more at the door.
Anyone interested in purchasing tickets in person may visit the MUHS bookstore on any school day from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. The bookstore is located in the school’s cafeteria.
For more information, visit mingusperformingarts.weebly.com.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42