Musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ performed at Parkland

Fiddler on the Roof Parkland College Prospectus

Photos by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus
The cast of Parkland Theater’s newest play, “Fiddler on the Roof,” holds a dress rehearsal on Tuesday, April 12, 2016.


Peter Floess

Staff Writer

A story of hardship and change is told in the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is coming to Parkland’s theater starting this Friday.

The play is directed by former Millikin University professor Stephen Fiol. Fiol says that since “Fiddler on the Roof” premiered in 1964, it has been translated into 23 languages and millions of people around the world have seen the play.

Fiol thinks the popularity of the musical is owed to its theme: the difficulty of change is universal.

Tevye, a dairyman in a Jewish community called Anatevka in czarist Russia, faces change on a personal and societal level. The character is played by Lou Kinnamon in the Parkland production,

Three of Tevye’s five daughters disregard the marriage traditions of Anatevka and marry for love, with each daughter pushing the boundaries of the religious and cultural traditions of the community further in turn.

On a societal level, change is felt by Tevye in the growing anti-Semitism in czarist Russia. Fiol summarizes this political phenomenon as being caused by the decline of Nicholas II’s regime. The czar decided to scapegoat the Jews for Russia’s problems.

His government-sponsored pogroms took land from rural Jewish communities. Eventually, this led to the forced migration of around three million Russian Jews during his reign, according to journalist Barbara Isenberg, who wrote a book called “Tradition!” on the history of the musical.

The title “Fiddler on the Roof” comes from one of Tevye’s opening speeches comparing life in Anatevka to a fiddler on the roof “trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.” Each person in the community is trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple life in a harsh environment and unstable political times.

Isenberg believes part of the appeal of “Fiddler on the Roof” comes from the continuing humanitarian problems and ethnic conflicts around the world. These crises have made the plight of the people of Anatevka universal.

According to Isenberg, playwright Joseph Stein got the idea for the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” from the paintings of Jewish Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, whose work was heavily influenced by the folk art of rural Jews in czarist Russia.

Fiol believes another part of the reason for the universal appeal of the musical is the music which composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick wrote in the early 1960s. Some of the musical’s songs, such as “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” have developed a life of their own outside of the musical. Fiol enjoys the works of Bock and Harnick in these shows and in other musicals they created together.

Fiol believes the 13-piece orchestra under the direction of Cullyn Murphy is very skilled, and the choreographing for the Parkland’s production—managed by Whitney Havice—is excellent.

Dennis Sims, who plays Avram, the book seller of Amatevka, has a part in the chorus of “Fiddler on the Roof.” This is the second musical he has been in. Fiol asked him to audition for the production, because Fiol knew that Sims could sing.

Sims takes part in the bottle dance during the wedding scene. The dancers must balance a wine bottle on their hats while dancing. Sims says it took him several months to learn the steps for the bottle dance and the other parts his character is involved in.

Fiol, Sims, and light technician and crew member Wyatt Sims stressed their enjoyment in being involved in the musical.

Dallas Street, marketing coordinator for Parkland’s theater, says “Fiddler on the Roof” is one of the few classical musicals the Parkland theater department has put on in the last few years.

In October 2016, Fiol is directing a musical called “First Lady Suite” at the Parkland Theatre about the wives of American presidents in the mid-twentieth century.

One can see “Fiddler on the Roof” at 7:30 p.m. on the following dates:

– Friday, April 22

– Saturday, April 23

– Sunday, April 24

– Thursday, April 28

– Friday, April 29

– Saturday, April 30

– Sunday, May 1

On Thursday, April 28, tickets can be purchased at half off their regular price.