A fine-tuned ‘Fiddler’ is fit for new audiences
March 10, 2015
Mention the title "Fiddler on the Roof" and many will think of the 1964 Tony Award-winning musical featuring the songs "Sunrise Sunset" and "If I Were a Richman," by Jerry Bock , lyrics by Sheldon Harnick ,
Others will think of Norman Jewison’s 1971 Academy Award-winning film staring Topol in the role of Tevye.
Some, still, may remember reading the book, ‘Tevye the Dairyman,’ written by Sholem Alechem, that served as the basis for the musical.
Most, however, will remember the length of the production, which averages about three hours.
This was something the Ziegfeld Theater Company wanted to remedy with its performances that will open at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend.
As director, Caleb Parry wanted to make the musical accessible for modern-day audiences.
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"When the musical first came out, it was a different time," Parry said during an interview with The Park Record. "People would go watch a musical for more than three hours and enjoy it. Now, everything has to be quick and accessible, so, I wanted to get rid of the stigma behind the musical and introduce it to a younger audience."
The biggest challenge was honing in on the pace.
"We decided to shorten things, without cutting any song or dialogue from the show," Parry said.
One way was to shorten the scene transitions.
"The show has written into it several large scene changes that involve massive and elaborate sets," Parry explained. "So we took a more simple approach to the show and make most of these sets out of furniture.
"One of the fun things about that is that it’s all older and antique furniture that has a certain finish that gives these pieces bright colors," he said. "We wanted to delve into the world of artist Marc Chagall, whose painting ‘The Fiddler’ gave the musical its title."
The crew looked at Chagall’s work and made note of the colors he used.
"While the backdrop of the musical is made of wood and has an earthy feel, there is that color that comes through with the furniture and lighting," Parry said. "I wanted the colors to express the liveliness these characters possess."
The production also focuses more on the cultural and religious aspects of the productions.
"Fiddler On the Roof" is about Tevye , the father of five daughters, and shows his determination to maintain his Jewish traditions, as outside influences affect his family.
"I think that resonates with Utah audiences," Parry said. "This show surrounds the religious culture, versus the actual religious doctrine and belief and is pertinent for Utah and that is something we leaned into."
As director, Parry delved into the book "Tevye the Dairyman" to shape his characters.
"The events in the musical take place over 30 to 40 years and I was able to draw a lot of information from the book that wasn’t given to us in the play," he said. "This was especially true with Tevye and his daughters.
"They actually have this deep-rooted relationships and I tried to show that every time we had moments with him and his daughters," Parry said. "You can see the endearing factors and how much he loves each of his daughters and through that, you can see how much of a great family unit they are."
Tevye is portrayed by actor Lane Wilden, whom many know from Ziegfeld’s previous production of "Shrek."
"Lane has played the role before and he embodies everything about Tevye," Parry said. "He’s got the size. He’s got the gruffness, and he has that love. I mean, when he hugs his daughters, you see this big teddy bear.
"That emotion is something we wanted to show infiltrated the whole town," Parry said. "I tried to make the show resonate with the audience so when people watch the show, they feel like they are also part of the community watching these events unfold."
Parry’s favorite segment of the musical is the chavaleh sequence.
"We did a few things with it where we have a younger Tevye come out with a baby and then with a 4-year-old and so on, so the audience gets to watch his daughter grow up before their eyes," he said. "The story is relatable to Utah because you have someone choose God over their family and many of us have been on different sides of that coin in different times of our lives. You can see Tevye work hard to make that decision work in his paradigm and that’s so difficult."
Directing the musical has been a rewarding journey for Parry.
"It’s been wonderful to be able sit back and become emotionally invested in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ again," he said. "I’m so glad that I can watch this show and love every minute."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present Ziegfeld Theater Company’s "Fiddler on the Roof" for two weekends, Friday through Sunday, March 13 to March 15, and Thursday through Sunday, March 19 through March 22. Curtain is 8 p.m. except for the Sunday shows, which will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for Thursday, March 19, range from $29 to $45 and tickets for the rest of the nights are $35 to $60. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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