Hearty laughter, serious drama, colorful dance – David Douglas High’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ has it all

We’ve seen their stellar production of this musical – read this, and you’ll see how this show is entertaining for young and old alike. Reserve tickets, before the date you want to attend sells out …

As Fiddler on the Roof opens, it’s clear that nothing in the small, 1905-era Russian hamlet of Anatevka is as important as “Tradition!”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The touching musical comedy Fiddler on the Roof has won many awards – but more than that, many experts say, it was perhaps one of Broadway’s finest musicals during its 3,000 performance run.

The combined David Douglas High School (DDHS) Performing Arts departments brought Fiddler on the Roof to life, when it debuted on December 1st. And, their talented cast of actors, singers, dancers and musicians bring village of Anatevka to life for several shows, through December 10.

“Indeed, this show is a classic of musical theater,” director and theater instructor Michael Givler said. “And, when you have an actor like Johnny Nguyen who can play Tevye so convincingly – backed up by a full cast of talented performers in the supporting roles – we knew we had to put on Fiddler on the Roof.

Learning that she’s been “matched” to marry, Tevye and Golde’s eldest teenage daughter, Tzeitel (played by Gabby Luther), sings one of the shows signature tunes, “Matchmaker”.

The show’s central character, Tevye (Johnny Nguyen), asks God if would be so wrong “If I were a Rich Man”.

Jock turns actor
Audiences who see Johnny Nguyen portray Tevyea poor Jewish dairy farmer in the days of Tsarist Russia – in such a polished manner audiences may conclude his parents pushed him on stage when he was a young child. But, no; Nguyen considered himself a “jock” – playing football, and running track – until he signed up for a theater class because he needed an elective course, during his junior year.

“Theater instructor Michael Givler strongly encouraged me to audition for Oklahoma!,” Nguyen told East Portland News. “Because I was involved in sports, I didn’t hang around with theater kids. But then, I got the role of Jud – and ever since then, it’s been an amazing experience.”

Part of the tradition is for Tevye, Golde, and their five daughters to hold “Sabbath Prayer”.

With arranged marriages being the custom, the town’s butcher, Lazar Wolf (Alex MacKaben), toasts, when he learns Tevye will agree to marry his daughter, Tzeitel.

This energetic dance number, “L’chayim” puts the male dancers’ acrobatics on display.

Nguyen went on to credibly play Rev. Perris in the school’s “black box” production of the Crucible. “Tevye is the most challenging role I’ve played; it’s been a lot of work,” he commented. “But, it’s been the most interesting role. And, what makes it really fun is being on stage with such a large and talented cast.”

Givler acknowledged that, in addition to acting, the show’s many songs – including Sunrise, Sunset, If I Were a Rich Man, and Matchmaker – are vocally challenging. “Our actors must also perform well musically.”

Tevye’s second-eldest daughter, Hodel (Diedre Uehara), learns a lot about the “outside world” and about changing traditions, from village newcomer Perchik (Hunter McAndrew) – including how men and women dance…together!

Tevye learns from the village’s young, struggling tailor, Motel (Pablo Iniguez), that he and Tzeitel gave each other a pledge to marry – to their fathers’ dismay.

Two of the thirty orchestra members,violinists Jessica Seifert and Cameo Lama, watch the conductor for their cue to pluck and play.

The show’s conductor, Jennifer Brooks-Muller, skillfully conducts the 30-member student orchestra which almost overflows the sunken pit. “This show is so much fun. My favorite part is all the quality time I get to spend with these talented young men and women,” she grinned.

A total of 60 actors, singers, and dancers fill the stage with lively dance numbers and dramatic scenes, as the story unfolds.

Giving backstage direction is DDHS Theater Arts instructor Mark Taylor.

Will Tevye’s “nightmare” help him convince his wife that Tzeitel should marry Motel, instead of Lazar Wolf?

The on-stage performers are being ably aided by a 16-person technical crew. Under the guidance of Theater Arts instructor Mark Taylor, the professional quality sets and lighting design markedly enhance the theatrical experience, rather than detract from it.

At the wedding, the audience is reminded, “Sunrise, sunset, quickly go the years …”

After Tevye relents, and gives the couple his blessing and his permission, Hodel sings “Now I have Everything” to Perchik.

But, when Tevye then learns Fyedka (Ian Booth), a young Christian man, has married eloped with his daughter Chava (Vanessa Harris) – he declares her “dead to the family”.

On stage through December 10
The curtain rises on Fiddler on the Roof evenings at 7:30 p.m. as performances continue on December 2 and 3. Go, and see if you agree that this is perhaps the best musical produced by the school to date.

Consider taking the whole family to enjoy the matinee performance on December 4 at 2:30 p.m. Evening shows return on December 8, 9 and 10.

Why does Hodel sadly sing “Far from the home I Love”?

Will the endearing love that Golde and Tevye express for one another be enough to help them through the trying times ahead?

With ticket prices at $10 for adults, and $7 for students and seniors, this show is sure to sell out quickly. Reserve tickets online: CLICK HERE to open their special box office site – OR call (503) 261-8270.

All performances will be in the David Douglas High School Horner Performing Arts Center Auditorium, at 1400 SE 130th Avenue, between SE Division Street and SE Stark.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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