Fiddler on the Roof

April 04, 2019 at 1:26 PM

With thanks to drama teacher, Ms Naomi Wilson

Two of everything!
Over the years, the Senior College has brought some outstanding musical productions to the Saint Kentigern stage, always delivered with an abundance of both talent and maturity by the student cast, crew and orchestra. With such high calibre performers vying for a leading role, show casting is always a rigorous process! 

This year’s production, ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ offered performance opportunities for a large ensemble, along with several principal parts. An extensive audition process took place at the end of last year, with a great deal of deliberation given to casting the leading roles. The directors were faced with a conundrum - so many students shone at the audition that they made the unprecedented decision to double-cast the show! 

Divided to a red cast and a blue cast, eight of the leading roles were each shared by two students. That was two Tevyes (Jack Horsnell and William Grafton-Howe), two Goldes (Venice Qin and Lily Batten), two Hodels (Scarlett Jacques and Amelia Elliott), two Yentes (Esther Schubert and Greer Webber), two Perchiks (Thomas Webster and Samuel Everitt), two Constables (Jono Do and Max Bennett) and two Shaindels (Saskia Dorresteyn and Holly Simmons) - each role, two apiece! 

Each lead performed their principal role on two nights, doubling in the ensemble on the other two nights of the four-performance show. This required some careful logistics throughout the rehearsal phase, to ensure each lead had ample stage time! Two casts also meant two final dress rehearsals -and, of course, two sets of costumes and double the hair and makeup! Yes, two of everything! But it proved worth it! For those fortunate to see both students perform, each brought their own nuance to the character. 

The show and its songs, long a favourite on Broadway, are iconic; telling the story of life in Anatevka, a Russian Shtetl (Jewish village) at the turn of the 20th century, seen through the eyes of the long-suffering milkman, Reb Tevye, his wife of 25 years, Golde, and their five daughters, Hodel, Tzeitel, Chava, Shprintze and Bielke. 

The lively opening number brought the whole cast to the stage in glorious chorus for ‘Tradition.’ We learnt that Anatevka, traditionally, has a ‘certain structure;’ every member of the family - the Papas, Mamas, Sons, and Daughters - have their specific role to play but it is the Papas who wield the power and makes every decision for his family, including who their daughters should marry. 

But change is in the air. 

On the surface ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ is a light-hearted musical full of upbeat songs about family squabbles, marriage, faith and the traditions of life in a Jewish village, but beneath runs a deep undercurrent - the very real issue of anti-Semitism which was sweeping across Europe at the time, which is why Teyve declares  life in the village to be as precarious as a ‘fiddler on the roof.’ 

With only God to confide in, Tevye contends with unprecedented changes to the life he once knew – starting with his feisty, non-compliant daughters! Teyve is offset by his sharp-tongued yet loving wife, Golde and together, they watch their home life unravel as their three eldest daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava, decide to break with tradition and not wait for the village matchmaker, Yente, to choose their husbands. Unheard of in their village, they want to marry for love and worse, they have fallen for men who will challenge their parents’ cultural and religious values. The talented trio of sisters were right on key in their delivery of the lyrical ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker! 

Yes, change is in the air. 

In addition to the family drama at home, Tevye and his Jewish community were facing increasing levels of persecution from Imperial Russia. At the local inn, religious and political tension between the Jewish clientele and gentile Russians hung in the air, as the two groups faced off in ‘To Life, To Life, L’chaim.’ The choreography was brilliant and well executed by the boys! 

With tensions rising on all fronts, ‘The Dream’ proved a delightful, comic and visually exciting diversion. Tevye, through a ludicrous dream, persuades his wife, Golde to allow their daughter, Tzeitel and the tailor, Motel to marry, rather than the Matchmaker’s suggestion of the ageing butcher, Lazar Wolf (Sam Ashton). It features Katherine Fletcher’s dramatic vocals in a ‘visitation’ from the after-life as ‘Fruma-Sarah’ the deceased wife of Lazar. A superstitious Golde agrees to the union and the ensuing wedding is a visual and vocal delight with the cast delivering both ‘Sunrise Sunset’ and ‘The Wedding Dance’ beautifully.’ 

Teyve’s back down for Tzeitel emboldens his other daughters with Hodel choosing the revolutionary student, Perchik as a husband. Hodel tells Tevye she is not seeking his permission, only his blessing and again, after soul-searching, Tevye relents. Events take a sad turn when Perchik is arrested and sent to Siberia. Hodel makes the heart-wrenching decision to leave her home and follow her heart. 

When Tevye’s third daughter, Chava expresses her desire to marry the Russian, Fyedka, outside of their faith, this is a step too far for Teyve and forbidden the union, she elopes. 

Meanwhile, the rumours spreading that Russians were evicting Jews from their villages, becomes reality. The villagers of Anetevka are given three days to pack up and leave the town. In shock, plans are made for families to emigrate to Poland or America – their fates determined by their choice of destination, in the foreshadowing of the early 20th century across Europe. Our knowledge of events, only adds to the sadness and poignancy of a musical steeped in actual history. 

This was a tale that was both joyous yet raw with emotion and it took a talented cast to give it the depth it deserved. Our students poured themselves into their characters bringing them to life with maturity well beyond their years. The orchestra did a superb job working with a difficult score to provide the backing, and our backstage crews used their sound, lighting, hair, makeup and organisational skills to ensure an outstanding result. 

And did ‘two of everything work?’ Head of Performing Arts, Ms Jane Horder said, ‘The process with the double cast was an exciting, collaborative and creative experience that our students fully embraced. It gave the students a sense of how this reflects a true theatre experience for a professional working actor. The actors fully embraced this process and we really enjoyed watching them work together to create their roles, offering encouragement and respect for each other.’ 

Well done on another fantastic Senior College production.


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