Thursday, December 5, 2013

Funny, poignant 'Fiddler' balances faith, family, philosophy

Tevye has a lot on his plate.

Beyond keeping up with his job as a milkman and striving to maintain a good reputation in his little Russian village of Anatevka, Tevye must face a world that is rapidly changing.

He strives to adhere to his Jewish faith and take care of his family, which includes a wife with a mind of her own, and five daughters – three of marriageable age.
Tevye hopes his daughters will be paired with suitable husbands through the local matchmaker – as tradition dictates. But the heart wants what it wants; his daughters fall in love with men Tevye would never choose for them, and insist on defying their dad.

In addition to all that, he and his family are living in early-20th-century Czarist Russia, where Jews are facing increasing discrimination – and even threats of violence and expulsion.

What’s a man with all these problems to do? Sing about them, of course!

And sing he does. Tevye is a big-hearted, funny philosopher who is devoted to God, family and community. As a musical-theater character, he has a lot to puzzle out in front of the audience, and a lot to get off his chest. He sings about his dreams, his fears and his attempt to balance all his challenges – like a fiddler perching on a roof.

“Fiddler on the Roof,” which opened in 1964, won nine Tony Awards. It was the first Broadway run of a musical to hit the 3,000-performance mark. For many years, it was the longest-running musical on Broadway. Since then, it has had four Broadway revivals and countless tours, and has become a favorite of high school, community and professional theater groups.

This is all a testament to the staying power of this popular, poignant, funny musical that’s full of memorable showtunes from “If I Were a Rich Man” to “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”

Pat Kautter, a veteran director and choreographer in local theater, has assembled a cast of EPAC veterans and new faces for the “Fiddler” production opening tonight at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

 And starring in the show is EPAC’s own artistic director, Edward Fernandez, who moves from his usual spot in the director’s chair to the stage, bringing Tevye’s unique view of the world to life. Those of you who know Ed know he has a personality every bit as big as Tevye’s – so his portrayal of the milkman is a match made in heaven.

“Fiddler” tickets are selling briskly, and some performances are selling out. So if you want to experience this final show of the 2013 season, be sure to visit the EPAC website right away to find showtimes and order tickets, or call the box office at (717) 733-7966. Tickets to the show, which runs through Dec. 21, would make a great holiday gift for a loved one! Don’t miss it!

Merv Wright