Fiddler On The Roof At VA Rep Breathes Life into A Classic
The Tony Award-winning classic Fiddler On The Roof is a story about a community, faith, and family. Turning fifty next year, Fiddler has been telling the story of Tevye and his five daughters, and the struggle of maintaining tradition through tribulation and change. Of course, a lot has changed in 50 years as well, but Fiddler continues to prove itself timeless.
The musical will open this Friday, Nov. 22 at Virginia Repertory Theatre. Director Richard Parison is an accomplished director taking his first go at the classic, and he described why Fiddler is so timeless.
“It’s such a huge part of musical theatre history, that it’s just always been part of my awareness as a theatre artist,” Parison said. “When this opportunity presented itself to me, it was just an ideal alignment of place and time”.
“Fiddler On The Roof is so much a part of so many people’s memory, and they often associate the show with very specific productions,” he said, describing how it isn’t the easiest play to take serious creative license with. “We approached it from a point of view that was a bit contemporary- we wanted to make sure that the story still resonated with the audiences of today.”
Of course, if you know Fiddler, having an entirely modern spin would be a difficult thing to pull off.
“The story is really distilled down to what the show is about,” Parison said of his vision for the play. On of the most prominent and memorable parts of Fiddler is its music, according to Parison. Jerry Bock, the brilliant Broadway composer, who died in 2010 wrote the classic score to Fiddler fifty years ago, but the songs feel classic without sounding like a dated, showtune-y musical whose old age is showing.
The musical, set in 1905 in Tsarist Russia, focuses on poor Jewish father and milkman Tevye as he struggles with the changes that spell the traditions keeping their heritage alive. My perhaps grim description leaves out the importance of the range of songs and emotions that they convey. Fiddler is sad and happy, up and down, like, well anything really.
Even the legendary “If I We’re a Rich Man” has its own elasticity, and theatre goers have been whistling happily to themselves a song that really relates on the level of human struggle. Bock’s songwriting in this case could be described as both ironic, in that the music’s tone reflects the true emotions and desires of Tevye, and the process of loss, as well as straightforward in the sense that humans have been singing happy songs about sad things for a long time.
“The show is about the dissolution of a way of life,” Parison said, describing how his characters react and how he wanted it to come across. “We’re looking to see how change affects everybody in the show.”
It certainly sounds like this show is for both Fiddler fans and first-timers alike, and that is fitting as Parison sees this as a chance to do a real expose on a community.
“I’m excited about doing a story about a close-knit community in Richmond,” Parison said. “since the Richmond theatre community is so close and so personal, I really wanted to be able to tell this story here in our community.”
Richmond is, like any place filled with people, a community. But Parison feels that it is a uniquely small place who can certainly relate to a story like Fiddler. As for how the musical will connect with the audience in terms of that relation, we will see. But don’t let that distract you, it’s always a pleasure to see a director get the chance to recreate something that influenced their theatre careers.
“I’m not trying to give an impersonation I’m trying to kind of get in the head of the man in this play and present a very casual tone.”February 17, 2016
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