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Tradition vs. change

The Civic Theatre’s production of Fiddler On the Roof explores universal themes… with some great tunes, of course

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2009-11-09


The Fiddler On the Roof made its Broadway debut in 1964, and it’s probably safe to say that there’s been at least one production happening on some stage somewhere every night since.

And true to a musical that features a tune called “Tradition!” as one of its (many) show stoppers, the appeal of Fiddler On the Roof — or at least a big part of that appeal — lies in its adherence to the old-fashion virtues of drama and theater. Simply put, it tells a good story with universal themes, does this extremely well, and boasts some of the most memorable tunes in musical theater. If you haven’t sung the chorus of “If I Were A Rich Man” to yourself at some point…

“It’s just a good production,” says Phillip Colglazier, Executive Director of the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre and the director of the Civic’s Fiddler, beginning its run on Saturday, November 7 . “The book, the music, the choreography, it’s got a great message, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry… It has this whole historic aspect, the cultural aspect, the family values of tradition… all those universal themes.”

It also has one of the great lead characters in Tevye (Ric Geist), a Jewish milkman in a small Russian village in 1905 who has to come to terms with the changing world around him. He has five daughters, and the three eldest are getting married and breaking with long held traditions. Meanwhile, some ugly historical events are never too far over the horizon, as the chaos and violence of the outside world intrudes more and more on the villagers lives.

The historical and cultural context of the story is what gives Fiddler On the Roof a great deal of its poignancy. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you might remember it as a sort of “slice-of-life” tale with some humorous moments. But the changes that Teyve and his family are facing are enormous.

Colglazier says that for this production, he really wanted to bring out some of the more dramatic elements of the story. “Yes, there’s lots of humor, but it’s more of a dramatic piece with humor,” he says. “It’s very powerful. When you think about the context of the Jewish community during the Russian Revolution, how some had to move to Poland, some to America. The historic aspect of this… to not play it dramatically I think would be doing it an injustice.”

The actor most famous for playing Tevye was Chaim Topol, who starred in several stage versions and in the 1971 film. Colglazier saw Topol reprise the role in a recent farewell tour; the actor’s voice was in remarkable shape, says Colglazier, but there was another aspect of the performance that really struck him, and served as inspiration for the Civic Theatre’s production. “What impressed me was that his portrayal of Teyve really carried the weight of the world,” Colglazier recalls. “I really wanted to make sure I brought out that element with this production. Ric (Geist, who plays Tevye) and I had several conversations about that, so it comes out more as a dramatic play with music.”


The Fort Wayne Civic Theater presents Fiddler On the Roof

Saturday, November 7 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, November 8 at 2:00 PM

Friday, November 13 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, November 14 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, November 15 at 2:00 PM

Friday, November 20 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, November 21 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, November 22 at 2:00 PM

Arts United Center
303 East Main Street

Tickets: $24/adults; $16/age 23 and under; $20/Sunday Senior Matinee

Box Office: 424-5220
www.fwcivic.org

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