Cameron Park Life

Tradition vs. change explored in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

By From page B1 | October 28, 2011

A poor man with five daughters is bound to face challenges.

But Tevye, the Jewish dairyman from “Fiddler on the Roof,” has more than rebellious girls on his mind.

“He lives in a time where all of the traditions of the past are changing around him,” said Zack Royal, the junior who stars as Tevye in Oak Ridge High School’s upcoming production. “He’s trying to come to terms with that.”

Sophomore Shelby Otwell, who plays Tevye’s oldest daughter Tzietel, called Royal’s character “very caring. As the story demonstrates, Tevye realizes he must adapt … even if that means ditching the traditional matchmaker and allowing his daughters to marry for love.

“He works extremely hard to see that his daughters are happy,” Otwell explained. “He wants the best for each of them.”

How do you handle your daughters’ wishes to challenge tradition? How do you survive being forced from your home?

The acclaimed Broadway gem “Fiddler on the Roof” answers these questions and, despite the seriousness of the story, shares an uplifting message with the audience. The musical, set in Tsarist Russia in 1905, debuted on Broadway in 1964 (and has since had several successful revivals) and was adapted into a film in 1971.

“I think ‘Fiddler’ is a breath of fresh air,” said director Janet Henke. “It’s a wonderful look into the Jewish culture and we find that we have a lot in common with (the Jews) even though we come from different cultures.”

To ensure authenticity, Oak Ridge Drama videographer Roger Ruby invited Golde Block, who performed in “Fiddler on the Roof” twice, to serve as the production’s culture and dialect coach. She played Golde (a sort of “typecast,” she noted) on two Westchester, NY, stages in the 1990s.

“I’m having a wonderful time,” said Block, 82. “I never thought I’d have this pleasure again.”

Fiddler is a very special production, Block added, explaining that when a cast is involved with the musical they become family. She said she sees that happening at Oak Ridge and is proud of all the efforts the actors have made to make this production as authentic as possible, including mastering the word “l’chaim.”

“And to think no one in the cast is Jewish!” Block said. “I think they’re doing very well and I’d be very proud to have anyone come to see it.”

To warm up, actors performed at the annual Jewish Food Faire at Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael in mid-October. They were very well-received, according to Ruby.

Now, Henke wants to fill the seats at Oak Ridge. She said she selected the musical — music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein — because it has “a wonderful message” and hasn’t been performed locally for quite a while.

Music teacher Shaun Manley recorded the music over the summer and coached the actors who will sing the production’s memorable songs, including “Matchmaker” and “If I Were A Rich Man.”

Performances for “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Oak Ridge High School theater, 1120 Harvard Way in El Dorado Hills, are scheduled at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 & 12 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 5, 6, 12, & 13. Purchase tickets by calling (916) 947-7529.

View a promo trailer of the play at

Noel Stack


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