Fiddler on the Roof

“Fiddler on the Roof” is a classic tale about the hardships of the Jewish people in early twentieth century Russia. Based on the stories written and published by legendary Yiddish author Shalom Aleichem, the story centers around a dairyman named Tevya who struggles to cope with his three daughters who refuse to accept his traditional values.

Simultaneously, Russian pogroms (Government authorized riots against the Jews in the late 1800s and 1900s) threaten to take his life and all that he owns.

It is a classic tale that embodies the struggle between traditional values vs. modern thinking. It has also become somewhat of a pop cultural phenomenon. In the Jewish culture itself, you’d be hard pressed to find someone Jewish who couldn’t sing you a line of at least one of the songs from the movie/play. Songs like “Tradition,” “To Life,” “Matchmaker,” “Sunrise, and Sunset” can be heard at Bar Mitzvahs and Jewish weddings to this day. There is no doubt that this work is one of the most beloved pieces of Jewish pop culture there is.

But that’s not why it was chosen to be FAU theatre’s next production. “The main reason was because of the number of roles for the students,” says the play’s director, Richard Gamble. “Having fun is what we’re about. It’s a celebration of life.”

A celebration of life indeed. One doesn’t have to be Jewish in order to put on a production of this play. Hey, we all drink on St. Patty’s Day,, right?

Gamble’s version of “Fiddler” is a much lighter version than the feature film and the Broadway play, which both tend to get a bit heavy at times. “Unfortunate things occur but that’s not what the story is about. It’s about survival, it’s about tradition,” Gamble says.

Gamble used the talents of FAU’s very own choreographer, Clarence Brooks, to help lighten up his production. Brooks will begin teaching at FAU starting in the fall, bringing back classes that have been absent since the last dance teacher left. Two modern dance classes and a dance appreciation class will now be offered to FAU students thanks to Brooks, as well as the contribution he made to this play.

All the dance sequences you see are courtesy of Brooks. “Everything is original,” he says, “other than the ‘Knee Crawl’ and ‘Bottle Dance.'” There are about seven major sections of dance, according to Brooks, in addition to countless duets and interludes throughout the production.

When you come to see the play and you notice that the man playing Tevya doesn’t exactly look like an FAU student, that’s because he’s not. The man who plays Tevya in the play is what’s referred to as an equity actor, which means he works for the actor’s union.

He is 51-year-old Jerry Gulledge and he was hired by the theatre department. Along with the actor who plays Lazar Wolf, equity actors were brought in not only to play those roles, but as a learning experience for the students.

Gulledge has been in the business for around 25 years, and is excited to be playing Tevya at FAU. “It is one of the classic roles in musical theatre,” he says.

When asked how he feels working with the students, he replied, “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much energy.”

The pros can learn a lot from the students, too. Gulledge’s costar, 24-year-old graduate student Patricia Drozda, who plays Tevya’s wife, Golde, seems unphased by the fact that her on-stage husband is more than twice her age. In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to her prior to the UP mentioning it (in case you’re wondering, there are no make-out scenes).

Come see “Fiddler on the Roof” presented by FAU’s theatre department. It is steeped in Jewish culture and tradition. You also have got to check out Gamble’s vision, Brook’s choreography, Gulledge’s professional touch, and FAU’s theatre department singing and dancing up a storm. It is playing in the University Theatre on June 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. and June 27 at 2 p.m. It is playing in July at 8 p.m. on the 8, 16, 17, at 2 p.m. on July 3, 10 and 11, and at 4 p.m. on July 4. L’ chaim!