The most popular musical in the 10-year history of Arizona Broadway Theatre (ABT), “Fiddler on the Roof,” runs through Sunday, April 3 in Peoria. The play tells the story of Tevye the milkman and his moving attempt to protect his family and their way of life in an ever-changing world.
“ABT is thrilled to continue our tradition of bringing the highest-caliber talent to the stage for Valley audiences,” says Cassandra Klaphake, the theater’s artistic producer. “The entire cast of ‘Fiddler’ is phenomenal.”
Judging by a recent, crowded matinee, Klaphake isn’t exaggerating. Superb cast, music, dance and performance—audiences have come to expect nothing less from ABT.
At times both heartwarming and heart-wrenching, “Fiddler” is considered one of the masterpieces of musical theater. Based on a book written by author Joseph Stein, the play opened on Broadway in 1964 with Zero Mostel as Tevye and Maria Karnilova as his wife, Golde, and won numerous Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Originally produced by Harold Prince and directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, the play has music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. There have been several Broadway revivals, including a current one that began in 2015.
Raising five daughters in the village of Anatevka on the eve of the early 20th-century Russian Revolution, Tevye holds fast to tradition while coping with growing anti-Semitism. Featured in the lead role of Tevye, Jason Simon carries the day. One minute we’re laughing and the next we’re shedding tears. We smile when he explains his people’s traditions, chuckle when he asks God who it would hurt if he were a rich man and cry at his reaction when his daughter Chava (played by Alexandra Schwartz) marries an outsider. Most recently seen as Yvan in “Die Fledermaus” at the Metropolitan Opera, Simon also appears in the film “Easter Mysteries,” premiering this month.
Additional members of the amazing cast include Kat Bailes as Golde, Jared Mancuso as Motel the tailor, Shane Hurst as Fyedka, Marc de la Concha as the rabbi and Johanna Carlisle as Yente, the village matchmaker. The ever-present fiddler is John Cardenas. Bobby Underwood is Lazar Wolf, Yente’s choice for Tzeitel. Rebecca Kuznick is Tzeitel and Brittany Santos is Hodel, the other two marriageable daughters. Santos is returning to ABT, as is Brad Rupp as the Constable and Jamie Parnell as Perchik the revolutionary.
Directing the production is ABT veteran M. Seth Reines; Joshua D. Smith provides musical direction. The play’s iconic songs, such as “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and, of course, “Tradition,” serve to emphasize its message of humor, heart and family.
Whether fleeing their homeland as a result of pogroms, war, terrorism or simply to seek a better life, displaced people need something to hold on to, a way of life to follow. In “Fiddler,” we see how tradition provides a sense of identity and community for a family—and a people—in the midst of change.
And yet, Tevye ultimately has to reexamine at least one tradition when his daughters insist on marrying for love. And in order to move on to a new life after leaving Anatevka, no doubt he’ll have to reexamine even more.
Tradition and change. Change and tradition. There’s always a tension. We let go of some things and hold on to others. Like Tevye, we celebrate tradition while embracing change and moving forward with our lives.