‘Fiddler’ keeps tradition alive

How does a small village keep society running as it should be when the world around them is constantly changing? Tradition, of course. 

Last Thursday was marked not only by the grand reopening of SSU’s Evert B. Person Theatre, but also the celebration for the 50th anniversary of the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” 

Brought together by the departments of Music and Theatre Arts and Dance, the performance is running from Feb. 6 to Feb. 16 as the only production in the northern Bay Area.

The theatrical performance contains music by Jerry Bock, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein. 

Musical Theatre Director Lynne Morrow is involved with the musical direction, with Adrian Elfenbaum in stage direction.

Strange characters and other oddities thrive in the opening act as a fiddler begins playing from above a rooftop and a milkman named Tevye (John Shillington) explains how things such as this are quite the norm in 1905 in Anatevka, a Russian village.

The story is centered on Tevye, his family and the Jewish traditions among the people of their village.

Tevye is a man who struggles over the decisions of his eldest three daughters, Tzeitel (Anna Leach), Hodel (Emili Lewis) and Chava (Sarah Maxon), due to their feelings of love toward men that don’t quite meet the criteria of traditional Jewish family traditions of the time.

Throughout the story Tevye becomes more and more conflicted with his daughter’s decisions, often showing his character to have inner thoughts projected out in song to capture exactly what is going on in his mind while he considers what is truly right and wrong and what he needs to decide on.

This is done with excellent comedic effect, as the audience begins to completely understand his given situation and how everything continues to get more and more questionable for him as each storyline plays out.

Musical numbers appear to be done incredibly well and seem to flow seamlessly with the dialogue showing a good balance between the two.

Shillington’s recital of “If I Were a Rich Man” is one of the most entertaining and joyful moments early on in the first act, as he proceeds to dance about while pondering over what life would be like in different financial circumstances.

The simplistic effects of the background scenery are a nice touch to the theme of the musical, where the upper part is mostly being used as sky for lighting purposes and the bottom half resembling the houses and hills of the village itself.

Imagination is elevated in a scene where Tevye has a nightmare that is represented in a ghostly fashion as a few of the actors’ voices are elevated to an eerily howling sound, along with fog surrounding the stage and a chair being raised and dangled above the set. 

Another scene showcases the skills of two actors attempting to balance bottles on their heads, keeping the audience on the brink of concern at the thought of them falling off.

The costumes are also authentic of the times and are even delved into detail early on to describe the Jewish family traditions for wearing a few key pieces of attire.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is the first production by the Music and Theatre Arts and Dance departments to kick off the spring season, with several more set to premiere in the next two months. 

These include “She Kills Monsters” in early March, with the “Spring Dance Concert 2014” and “Comedy of Errors” both set to be shown in mid-to-late April.

On Sunday a sing-along version of the musical was performed. Wednesday will be a piano only performance at 1 p.m. Thursday will be a special faculty and staff showing with $5 tickets for standard, senior and visiting students at 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday’s performances are also at 7:30 p.m. and with $10 - $17 tickets, but free for students with their Seawolf I.D.

What makes “Fiddler on the Roof” stand out among other notable musicals is how the story employs joyfulness and delightful romances, but its underlying strength is shown through its ability to capture the harshness of the times all the same, keeping the audience in mind that there isn’t exactly one perfectly happy ending in store for these characters.