The curtain will open 7 p.m. Friday at the Golden Chain Theatre for the first of 12 performances of the much-anticipated production “Fiddler On The Roof.”
The show, based on the stories of Shalem Aleichem, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.
First seen on Broadway Sept. 22, 1964, the story centers on the village of Anatevka where milkman Tevye complains to God a bit, but basically enjoys life with his wife, their five daughters and his fellow villagers.
Older villagers celebrate their commitment to keeping things the way they have always been. The younger generation, particularly three of Tevye’s daughters who are finding true love, don’t like the tradition of matchmaking and want some say in who they will wed. It’s a timeless story of Tevye, the Jewish, philosophical patriarch, and his family who struggle to keep up with the changing world around them.
The amusing yet moving play, with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and Jerome Robbins, and book by Joseph Stein, is directed by Jennifer Piccolotti, GCT’s artistic director, who said Fiddler is one of her very favorite musicals.
James Mierkey plays the lead role of Tevye, a big, gruff man with a heart of gold who somehow seems to balance tradition and adaptability. Whether it’s decision-making moments or trying to gain cooperation from his hard-nosed wife, Golde, played by Julie Riley, Tevye is always looking for solutions that maintain stability and don’t completely forsake established customs.
“Not only is Fiddler a daunting show to tackle because of the fact that everyone has seen the movie and have a certain standard that they will be looking for, but with nearly 70 cast members, there are a lot of details to handle,” Mierkey said. “They all have to be costumed and taught music and choreography and then it all needs to come together in to the seamless, cohesive story that so many know and love.”
Mierkey said he was honored to play Jesus in Godspell this past spring - a difficult task he took very seriously.
“When Jennifer approached me to consider the role of Tevye, I was again overwhelmed by the opportunity,” Mierkey said. “These two roles are some of the most iconic in musical theatre history and I am so humbled to be able to do them both in the same year.
Mierkey said Tevye is a complex character with a sensitive side, but also a hard edge produced by a life of displacement because of his faith, and his tradition.
“He is met with serious challenges throughout the story and that manifests in a major personal crisis that is a challenge to portray on stage,” Mierkey said. “With the help of a wonderful cast and solid direction I am becoming him and it is a thrill and an honor to play him.”
Riley said playing Tevye’s wife Golde has been an emotional roller-coaster.
“But that’s what I love about it,” Riley said. “The challenge has been to portray the entire range of emotions she goes through in a very short time frame. I hope I can play her as I have come to know her - extremely tough on the exterior, but extremely tender to those she loves.”
Riley will be on stage with her two daughters - Savannah, 10, and Peyton, 13, who gets to open and close the show as the ‘fiddler.’
Mierkey said Piccolotti has done a fantastic job handling all of those details as well as giving all the principal actors the individual attention they need to bring their characters to life.
But beyond that, Piccolotti chose Fiddler because she wanted something that would be influential bringing new people to the Golden Chain stage that may otherwise be intimated to audition for another show.
“The characters in Fiddler are real people,” Piccolotti said. “There are no showgirl diva actress types in this show. At the beginning of rehearsals I told my cast if it’s always been your dream to dress up and be glamorous on the stage, it won’t be in this show.”
Piccolotti said that although Fiddler may not be flashy, it’s wonderfully moving.
“It will make you laugh and cry,” Piccolotti said. “I also chose Fiddler because it will bring new patrons to the Golden Chain. Fiddler is iconic, well known, well loved ... a wonderful family event for the Thanksgiving holiday season.”
Mierkey’s singing is strong on such classics as “Tradition,” and “If I Were a Rich Man.” His duet with Riley on “Do You Love Me?” is one of the highlights in the second act.
Kelly Ravel, Lyric Piccolotti, and Alli Ruiz play the marrying daughters, who will sing “Matchmaker” and are individually stellar in their spotlighted moments.
The original Broadway production of the show had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway show for almost 10 years until “Grease” surpassed its run. It remains Broadway’s 16th longest-running show in history.
The production won nine Tony Awards, including best musical, score, book, direction, and choreography. It spawned four Broadway revivals and a highly successful 1971 film adaptation.
2016 GCT schedule announced
The Golden Chain Theatre has announced its 10-show 2016 schedule:
* “The Altos” - Sept. 12 - 14.
* “Shake” - April 1-17.
* “Steel Magnolias” - May 6 - 22.
* “Makes Order Bride” - June 10 - 26.
* “Picnic with the Princesses” - May 28.
* “Seussical the Musical” (children’s summer workshop production) - July 9 and 10.
* “Dearly Departed” - Aug. 12 -28.
* “Blithe Spirit” - Sept. 23 - Oct. 9.
* “The Music Man: - Oct. 28 - Nov. 20.
* “Believe in Christmas” - Dec. 9 - 18.
2016 Season Tickets are now available for $90 ($72 - 55 and over) for seven of the above shows (not including Altos, Princesses, and Seussical), by calling (559) 683-7112, or online at www.goldenchaintheatre.org.
50 “Fiddler On The Roof” facts
“Fiddler On The Roof” first premiered on Broadway on Sept. 22, 1964. To celebrate, Broadway.com, with some help from the new book “Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-To-Hollywood Story of Fiddler On The Roof,” came up with these 50 Fiddler facts: