Jeremy Littlejohn returns as Tevya. It’s a Tradition!
I was singing songs from "Fiddler on the
Roof" before I knew there was such a musical. That's because once upon a
time the songs from Broadway Musicals were sung by Top Forty artists on the
radio. I remember humming along with "Matchmaker," "If I Were A
Rich Man," and "Do You Love Me?" as a kid without knowing that
the music had a story. "Sunrise, Sunset" was sung at our wedding.
Like a lot of people, once I discovered the musical I realized this is my
And what a story. The late, great Joseph Stein based "Fiddler's" book
on the immortal stories of Sholem Aleichem. Tevye, the dairyman of the Russian
village of Anachevka, lives a life of contradictions, maintaining a delicate
and paradoxical balance between abject poverty, hardbound traditions, a changing
world, and unquenchable joy. Along with his wife Golda and five daughters, and
the many other residents of the village, they all manage to keep their balance
like, well, like a fiddler on the roof!
Though Aleichem's stories are firmly rooted
in the Jewish experience, their universality evokes the shock of recognition.
Who hasn't thought to themselves "This is my life -- I know these
people!" when watching the musical?
Certainly Charles Burr has. Burr, the
artistic director of Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater Michigan, will direct this
year's production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at Amish Acres. This is
the fourth time it has been performed in the Round Barn Theatre, but Burr has
been a more frequent visitor to Anachevka. Burr paused as he reflected on the
fact he's been involved in so many productions of Fiddler, he's lost count.
"At least two" as director, Burr
said, and "six, seven, eight, I lost count" as an actor. He always
plays the Rabbi.
Asked about his approach to the show, he
emphasized, "We have to honor what has gone on before. ...We're not going
to want to set it in a space station orbiting around the moon," he added,
laughing. His Fiddler will be set in the particular place and time but
"there's no denying its inner universality."
"I think people are always happy to see
it this familiar story," he said. "It's so real. There's the barn.
There's the street. There's the home. It is a very good show. While it doesn't
need grand, sweeping changes, there's always something new. There's a reason
it's everyone's favorite show."
Fans of the Round Barn Theatre will remember
Burr for having recently directed "The Diary of Anne Frank," and for
having acted in "Harvey." He said that he was especially looking
forward to working with Jeremy Littlejohn, who will reprise his role as Tevya,
and Amber Burgess who will play Golda.
Burr wants to emphasize "the love
between the two of them. Sometimes it's lost in all the argument. They bicker
because they love each other."
His favorite number? It was hard to choose,
but perhaps "If I Were A Rich Man." "There's no better song that
illustrates a character," Burr said. "There's the comedic element,
the religious element, his attitude towards his wife."
Then there's "Do I Love You ,"
which he called "a whole scene set to music. You know, These are some of
the best songs ever. Great music. Great words."
"Fiddler on the Roof" was put
together by a Mount Rushmore of Broadway legends: Jerome Robbins, Harold Prince,
Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein. It opened in 1964, won nine Tony
Awards, and continues to be a favorite of local, regional, national, and
international stages. It has had a Broadway revival every decade in the show’s
fifty year history and is currently running through the end of 2016. It has
been produced over 1,300 times in Japan alone and nearly 500 productions are
mounted each year around the world.
For reservations or more information call the Box Office at Amish Acres,
800-800-4942, or go to www.amishacres.com.