"Fiddler on the Roof" Comes to the Alma Thomas Theater

Written by Jessica Espinoza
Megaphone Staff Writer

March 6 through March 9, Southwestern’s Alma Thomas Theatre will be housing one of the largest musical productions that The Sarofim School of Fine Arts has seen to date, BOCH and Harnick’s musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The show, first proposed in February 2007, was a collaborative effort by the theatre and music departments the come up with an idea for the grand opening of the refurbished Alma Thomas Theatre.

Casting began the second day of the spring semester, and rehearsals the week after that. Students were required to prepare one song for preliminary auditions, and two further call-backs were held.

Dr. Rick Roemer and his co-director Dr. Oliver Worthington were very specific in their requirements for casting.

“We were looking for actors and singers who we all felt could fill the Alma Thomas Theater,” Roemer said, “It’s a much bigger space than Jones Theater and the level of performance needs to match the facility.”

They were also very clear about vocal requirement, especially if potential cast members could accurately match notes and met the correct vocal range for the characters. In casting the family of Tevye, the main character, directors had to be very careful to make sure the actors looked similar.

It is staggering to consider the amount of work and thought which goes into casting a production of this magnitude. Roemer cites the size of the cast as his most pressing challenges. There is a cast of 35 in “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is smaller than the 50 people in the original Broadway cast.

Some roles are doubled to trim down the size of the cast further and make the performance flow as smoothly as possible. Also, a production in the ATT requires much more complex scenery. The scenery of set designer, Dr. Desi Roybal, according to Roemer, is “brilliant” but was difficult to finish in time.

A production of this size requires an orchestra to be reckoned with – an orchestra comprised of Southwestern musicians. They have been rehearsing since the beginning of January, usually about three hours a week, during regular-scheduled orchestra practice.

The orchestra is made up five violinists, two violists, two cellists, two percussionists and varied brass and woodwind instruments including trumpet, oboe, bassoon and French horn.

So far, they have not rehearsed with the full cast but rather rehearsed with specific actors on solo numbers. Full-cast rehearsals will begin at the end of this month and the beginning of March. The musicians appear to be very excited about the upcoming production.

“I really like playing ‘Tradition,’ first-year cellist Natalie Phillips-Perkoff said when asked what her favorite musical number from the show was, “because I know it is the first big number where most of the cast gets to participate. It is really upbeat and sets the tone for the rest of the musical.”

It is challenging, Phillips-Perkoff asserts, to play the pieces where voices have the melodic line, because the instrumentalists can’t tell where to come in and how to keep track of their meter. There is no doubt, however, that they will be able to rise to the challenge.

The plot of “Fiddler on the Roof” remains timeless, as Roemer states, because of the resonating truth it contains.

“Throughout time and history, people have treated other people in an inhumane and cruel manner,” Roemer said, “prejudice and bias have been a part of the human experience for many, many years. It happened to the Jews in Russia at the turn of last century (the main story of ‘Fiddler’) as it continues to happen today. That, unfortunately, is a subject that is universal.”

Roemer believes that this idea will speak to audiences for the sheer reason that bigotry and hate are still very much alive in modern society.

Also very powerfully felt in the play are the struggles between youth and traditions, two forces that are almost always at odds.

The musical centers around the family of Tevye, a modest and devout milkman living in a rural part of Russia. Tevye witnesses his daughters flout tradition, while the foundations of his established life are severely shaken by the anti-Semitic programs in turn-of-the-century Russia.

“The story is ultimately a story of hope.” Roemer said.

The role of Tevye is being portrayed by guest actor Ian Scott Schroeder, artistic director of Zilker Summer Musicals in Austin. As soon as Roemer met him, he knew that Schroeder was perfect for the role.

Southwestern students and faculty will receive two complimentary tickets. Tickets for community members are $15, and $10 dollars for children under 16 and senior citizens aged 63 or older. Performances will be Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

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