Fiddler on the Roof

By Deborah Joyce Williams

The musical "Fiddler on the Roof" lit up the summer sky with beautiful music and set designs at the Iroquois Amphitheater in July. The musical was one in a trio of the 1993 Summer Series which also included "South Pacific" and "The Music Man." The productions were made possible through "Music Theatre Louisville which brought together the talented ensemble, many such as William Theisen in the leading role as Tevye, Melissa Combs as his wife Golde and Lee Buckholz as Motel, the young tailor, have performed with Music Theatre Louisville in the past.

The story takes place in the year 1905, in a small Russian village known as Anatevka. The times are changing in the world and the yet-untouched Anatevka will not respond well to the coming changes. Tevye, a dairyman, is portrayed as a long-suffering soul with good humor. He feels that he never really gets ahead in life and has several small talks with God in the course of the musical. During one of his talks he says, "God, I know we are the chosen people, but couldn't you choose someone else once in a while?" It is this spirit that Tevye carries in the play.

The family of Tevye are poor and rely heavily on the help of a matchmaker. The three daughters, however, have plans of their own, resulting in all three choosing their own husbands, which is contrary to tradition.

It is tradition that is sung about in the prologue. While a Fiddler sits upon a roof, his silhouette magically cast against the stage, the entire cast, the Villagers, the Papas, the Mamas, the Sons and the Daughters all sing of tradition, one of which is the Papa choosing the man for his daughter's husband and working with the aid of a matchmaker.

In the song "Matchmaker" the three daughters sing about a perfect match, reflecting a closer look at the social constructs of the time, when a woman could not choose her own husband and he was "matched" with her for financial betterment of the family. The man chosen was not necessarily the same age as the girl or may not have had the same interests.

The "Sabbath Prayer" was a beautiful mixture of music and set design. The background changed to the hues of darkness which blended with the outside amphitheatre sky. Light appeared in the homes while smoke billowed from chimneys. The same was occurring in all the homes in the small village, signifying unity.

The peacefulness is broken, however, when Tevye's eldest daughter chooses Motel, the young-tailor, as her future husband after Tevye has promised her to Lazar Wolf, the Butcher. Tevye hears the pleas of the young couple and. must convince his wife Golda to accept the change. In the Dream scene, Tevye claims to have been visited by Golde's mother as well as Lazar Wolf's first wife warning against to the marriage. The scene was wildly colorful and entertaining and convinced his wife.

A very serene marriage takes place in the closing scene of act one with the lovely song "Sunrise, Sunset." The celebration is disturbed by the revolutionary soldiers but the family remains strong.

Act two is the heart-rending part of the production because Tevye must assent to the choices of the last two daughters who wish to marry. His second daughter he has to see leave the village to join her future husband while his other daughter marries outside the faith, causing Tevye to declare her dead. It is not until the final scene when the family is forced to move because of the revolution, that he gives God's blessing to her.

We are not enlightened to the fate of the family; only hope that all will be well is what is given.

Every actor and actress portrayed each scene beautifully and the orchestra, conducted by Herbert L. Koerselman, Dean of the School of Music at the University of Louisville, added to the beauty of the night.