Sunday, May 31, 2020
‘Fiddler on the Roof’ a Treasure Trove of Community Talent
Tevye, played by R.L. Rowsey, has a hard time accepting the desire of his daughter Hodel, played by Claire Watson, to follow her banished husband to Siberia.
Saturday, September 21, 2019


It was a time when the idea of marrying for love was considered radical. A time when familiar familial and societal roles were changing.

“Fiddler on the Roof,” being presented by St. Thomas Playhouse, is rich in history and heritage. And the musical, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 22, is a toe-tapping example of community theater at its best.

Jamey Reynolds has created a sparse but perfect backdrop of rustic wooden slats to represent the poor shetl of a 1905 Russian village. And Alison Higdon has created a rich array of costumes, down to the tzitzis strings hanging out of the men’s shirts meant to remind them of the commandments in the Torah and the veiled wedding dress that Tzeitel wears.

Mordcha, played by Max Stimac, postulates as village men rehash the news of the day.

Choreographer Sara Bradshaw Gorby has constructed an ambitious series of dances, including the engaging bottle dance performed at Tzeitel’s wedding. And musical director Dorinda Rendahl and vocal coach Stephanie Streja, a frequent guest cantor for the Wood River Jewish Community, have honed 45 cast members into a unified voice.

And Director Brett Moellenberg, whose grandmother’s parents emigrated to Toledo, Ohio, from the Pale of Settlement where the play takes place, has helped the cast of professional actors and amateurs rise to the occasion in a musical that calls on many to play several roles with lots of singing and dancing.

But members of the R.L. Rowsey fan club will particularly enjoy the opportunity to see R.L. in an all-too-rare role as an actor.

Cast as Tevye, a poor milkman being forced to examine the traditions and pledges he’d adhered to all his life, he comes across so naturally as the man who talks to God.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is rich in song, dance and passion.

“Am I bothering you too much?” he asks God at one point, leaving the audience half-expecting a booming response from the Almighty. “As the Good Book says—oh, why should I tell you what the Good Books says,” he adds.

The teacher Perchik, portrayed by Kagen Albright, sets the stage up front as he proclaims: “Our ways are changing all over the world, except here.”

And Rowsey lets his compassion show through as he’s confronted with questions of love, concerning his daughters’ desire to marry outside of tradition.

Particularly cute is the banter between himself and his sharp-tongued wife Golde, played by Cherie Kessler, as he asks “Do You Love Me?” in a song.

Motel the tailor, played by David Janeski, marries Tevye’s oldest daughter Tzeitel, played by Aly Wepplo.

The play features 45 cast members. While Rowsey and Kessler play the patriarch and matriarch of the family, Aly Wepplo plays Tzeitel, and Claire Watson, Hodel. Ella Boice, Ava Knowles, Skyler Yuengling, Lucy Carter, Langley Bier and Lizzie Loving take turns playing the other sisters in the family.

Amy Nelson portrays the matchmaker Yenta; David Janeski, Motel; Kagen Albright, Perchik; Andrew Alburger, Lazar Wolf, the butcher, and Todd Schwieder, Avram.

Bella Stimac plays Grandma Tzeitel and Melodie Mauldin, Fruma-Sarah. Andrew Schiers draws on his day job as a law enforcement officer to play the Constable; Luke Mauldin, plays Fyedka; Ward Loving, the rabbi; Kevin Quaderer, Mendel; Heather Black, Nachum/Sasha; JoEllen Collins, Shaindel, and Max Stimac, Mordcha.

Playing daughters in the cast are Norah Davis-Jeffers, Katie Gardiner, McKenzie Giles, Ida Belle Gorby, Clara Gvozdas, Lucy Lamoureux, Marina Monschke, Sarah Olson, Lilia Page, Kjedwryne Shiers. Playing sons are Rylee Brown, Asher Knowles, Wyatt Root, Qwydion Schiers, and Rick Vigueria.

Yente the matchmaker, played by Amy Nelson, has some advice for Tevye’s wife Golde, played by Cherie Kessler.

Playing mothers are Neva Baer, Joy Bond, Robyn Fox, Mattigan Monschke, Amber Piiranen, Heidi Schiers, Kristal Schiers, Jamie Stimac and Liz Yuengling.





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