When the Riverdale Repertory Co. chose the timeless classic “Fiddler on the Roof” for a limited run at The Riverdale Y between Nov. 11 and Nov. 19, it couldn’t imagine the current state of world affairs.
The musical is a celebration of tradition, love, and family relationships. The story follows an older Jewish father, Tevye, a milkman in the village of Anatevka in the 1800s grappling with tradition as he lives in the changing world around him. It’s a story about family and love as Tevye is set to marry off his daughters. It’s a story about finding one’s self during harsh times.
Consider the developments in Israel and Gaza over the past month. An Oct. 7 terrorist attack on kibbutzes and an open air music festival in Israel left more than 1,400 Israelis, Israel Defense Forces, and others dead. The ensuing war with Hamas, the terrorist group ruling Gaza has left more than 9,000 Palestinians dead, according to Hamas.
The cast, which includes 50 actors from 12 to 70, is excited to bring this adaption to Riverdale. Everyone involved in the performance is participating out of passion. Most cast members are a part of the Jewish community and almost every cast member has a day job and rehearses at night. Most of the community members have been in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” before.
The story is near and dear to the hearts of the cast. Director Laurie Walton expressed that this adaptation will be a classic to the public.
“While many people react that it is ‘overdone,’ particularly at a JCC, I offer another way to look at it,” Walton said. “No matter how often we perform in it … something new touches our hearts and the experience is always nothing short of inspiring and heartwarming. And oh, the humanity. I have performed, seen and directed the show countless times. I have always, always been moved by it.”
Judah Shapiro is starting in the production and plays the main role of Tevye. He explained that this is at least the fifth time he has been in the musical and has played other roles, but this is his first time starring as Tevye.
Shapiro mentioned that this performance is going to be special to him and he hopes the story can touch the audience. He described his experience as poignant, meaningful and incredibly funny.
“Hopefully (the show) communicates the universality of humaneness to the audience because this is a dream role for me,” he said. This is the role I’ve always wanted to play and I’m just very thankful. I’m very happy with life doing this.”
Nina Donnard who plays one of the daughters, Tzeitel agreed with Shapiro on the importance of traditions the story tells. They mentioned the story is important to tell in the world today and talk about struggles so that everyone can build connections with one another and work together for a brighter future.
“It’s a story, where history repeats itself, and people need to know how to kind of stop the bad patterns in history from happening,” Donnard said. In this story, you know, many of the themes are very specific to our community. It’s also the family and tradition themes that are so universal and are something that everybody can relate to.”
“Fiddler on the Roof” is directed and choreographed by Laurie Walton and includes musical direction by Bob Walton and Justin Fischer with additional choreography by Allison Podolsky.
The Riverdale Repertory Co. is one of three resident theater companies that are offered by The Riverdale Y. They provide a creative environment where children, teens and adults feel free to express themselves artistically. The award-winning Riverdale Rising Stars and Jr. Rising Stars offer teens and kids the opportunity to be part of a professional theatrical company as they grow their self-esteem and confidence, develop camaraderie through ensemble-building and create lifelong friendships.
For adults 18 and older, the Riverdale Repertory offers a community theater program. A gifted faculty of working artists, directors and technical directors guide each creative journey, cultivating members’ individual talents. Participation is by audition. Everyone gets a part.
The adult theatre company is open those 18 and kder. For this production, the cast contains 50 actors between 12 and 70-plus.
The Riverdale Y, is located at 5625 Arlington Ave.
Tickets are $23 for general admission and $14 for children and senior citizens. Purchase tickets at TicketTailor.com/events/riverdale.