Right on time for the Sabbath, San Marino High School Drama will premiere its rendition of the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof” this week.
Students have practiced and rehearsed for the musical — which depicts a Jewish dairyman Tevye in Czarist Russia who becomes conflicted when three of his daughters wish to marry men outside of the norm and thus strain their faith — since November. Some seniors see the performance as a fitting capstone musical to their school careers, including Erik Olson, who said his role as Tevye represents his biggest role since he started at SMHS.
“This year I’m ‘the’ lead, if you will, so it’s been fun to increase the amount of stuff I do,” he said. “It helps that everyone is super dedicated. I think the cast was chosen so well.”
Alongside Olson on stage is senior Nicole Doerges, who plays Golde, Tevye’s wife, also in her biggest role at SMHS.
“She’s a very strong female character, so I think she has more a say than most women would at that time,” she said. “Obviously she loves her daughters, but she knows practically that marrying into a wealthy family would be better for them. Regardless of who they choose, she’s just glad that they’re in a relationship where they’re happy.”
On top of its Broadway run, “Fiddler on the Roof” was made into a film in 1971. Ahead of auditions for this performance, the Thespian Club watched the film, and some of the students had seen either it or a professional production (or both) elsewhere.
Olson said that didn’t prevent him from being his own Tevye.
“I’m so different from Chaim Topol, even physically and emotionally, that it was easy,” he said. “I just kind of found my own Tevye.”
Doerges, by contrast, had seen nothing before being cast, which she admitted came with both advantages and disadvantages.
“With such a blank slate, you sometimes don’t really know where to start and it’s sometimes difficult to relate to,” she said. “Generally, it’s easier for me to try to interpret how I think she would react to everything going on.”
Senior Ariana Prappas, who wants to study theater in college, said her role as one of Tevye’s and Golde’s daughters, Hodel, represents a change for her, role-wise.
“It feels different from the last three shows we’ve done,” she said. “It’s a classic. This one is a lot more spiritual and it’s really great. It’s really nice to do.
“I have only played villains or in comedic roles, so this one was really hard; I’ve never been a romantic lead before,” Prappas added, explaining it was also different to develop a character alongside a peer. “Our characters develop together and, in every other role I’ve played, I’ve developed singularly.”
Prappas said she particularly enjoys this musical because of its classical style of singing, and said she’s found a good middle ground between appreciating the film version and taking her own path as Hodel.
“I definitely branched off a little bit,” she said. “She’s very strong-headed and she’s independent and sweet. When I’m looking at other people playing the character, I don’t want to get too attached because I end up copying.”
Keenan Taw, a senior playing Motel, a tailor who wants to marry another of Tevye’s and Golde’s daughters, said he’s enjoyed playing “less of a straight man and more of a comedic character” with this show.
“He’s just kind of an awkward, nerdy, dweeby kind of guy,” said Tau, who plans to study theater at New York University. “He’s a meek guy, but he’s sweet. This year’s been fun. The last few years, I’ve been the lead-lead, so it’s been nice to take on more of a supporting role.”
Doerges said she particularly enjoys the famed wedding scene, despite its complicated nature, because it’s “all very high energy.”
“I think the whole scene is 10-15 minutes, but that’s the one I always look forward to because the music is so energetic,” she said.
Olson said most people recognize “Fiddler on the Roof” for its song “If I Were a Rich Man,” but he preferred the song “Little Chavalah” because its lower vocal pitch suited him more.
“It’s a really beautiful song and it’s really great to sing,” he said.