The popular Broadway musical will open at Cherry Hill East on Friday, March 1.
The musical “Fiddler on the Roof” premiered on Broadway more than 50 years ago and is set more than 100 years ago in a small Russian village.
However, many students in the Cherry Hill High School East theater community feel the themes of the show still speak loudly to audiences today.
Cherry Hill East’s theater department is hoping to have a huge impact on the community with its spring musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” The show will take the stage during the first two weekends in March at Cherry Hill East’s auditorium. The show will have two casts, red and white, with the two casts each taking the stage three times on alternating days.
“Fiddler on the Roof” takes place in the Russian village of Anatevka in the early 1900s. The story revolves around Tevye, the Jewish father of five girls, who tries to hang tight to Jewish traditions and values with his family in an ever-changing world.
Much of the story features the conflict between old and new and shows how people deal with hanging on to traditions through changes and societal pressure. Several actors noted these themes are very relevant today, especially in the current political and social climate.
“This show in particular, really, represents a generation who is creating new customs,” said junior Cate Harding, playing the role of Hodel in the red cast. “I feel that reflects our society today, recently with a lot of social change coming about, we’re creating new customs in a way.”
The story features a number of Jewish traditions and the show attempts to make the traditions as authentic as possible. With the Cherry Hill East cast coming from all different backgrounds, some of the Jewish students have helped with teaching the other members of the cast about the different traditions in the show.
Senior Elise Baratta, playing the role of Yente in the white cast, grew up in a Catholic house and said she didn’t know much about Jewish traditions prior to this show.
“When we were blocking scenes that Yente was in and when she was walking in the house, you have to kiss the Mezuzah when you enter and leave,” Baratta said. “I didn’t know what that was, I didn’t know any part of that. So getting to learn that and be taught that stuff, I’m very appreciative for it.”
“I think it shows the strength of our theater department that we’re trying to get everything so accurate and are so passionate about getting every little tradition right,” added Emma Stopek, playing the role of Chava in the white cast.
While the show features a lot of Jewish tradition, the cast feels the show speaks to people of all faiths and backgrounds.
“You might relate to one character or your might relate to the plot itself,” said senior Jayson Borenstein, playing the role of Motel in the white cast. “That’s what make it so personal.”
“We’re so lucky to live in a place where every religion is accepted,” added junior Jackson Feudtner, playing the role of Perchik in the white cast. “Everyone is accepted for who they are, and they’re free to practice. But like in ‘Fiddler,’ there are still places where they’re persecuted. It’s very touching to perform a show where you’re performing the acceptance of freedom of religion.”
The students are planning to make this spring’s show a great performance for reasons separate from the themes of the show. “Fiddler on the Roof” will be the last musical for director Tom Weaver. Weaver is retiring at the end of the school year after being a part of Cherry Hill East’s theater department for more than 40 years.
“He does constantly say, ‘don’t make this about me,’” said Alicia Cosenza, playing the role of Hodel in the white case. “But I think every single member of this cast wants to make this show in particular special for him.”
“All of us are working especially hard to make it as perfect for him as we can,” added sophomore Grace Breslow, playing the role of Yente in the red cast. “We’re all doing the maximum.”
Weaver said “Fiddler on the Roof” is the perfect final show for him personally. Not only is it the fourth time the show is being performed at Cherry Hill East, but Weaver has also worked on the show 10 times at a number of different venues.
Though the students talked about making Weaver proud in his final show, Weaver doesn’t want to make this year’s performance about him.
“I want the focus of the show to not be on me, but on the kids and the show,” Weaver said.
“He is the most humble person I think I’ve met or will ever meet, because it’s so not about him,” said senior Kevin Naddeo, playing the lead role of Tevye in the white cast.
“Fiddler on the Roof” will be performed on March 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and March 3 and 10 at 2 p.m. All performances will take place in the Cherry Hill High School East auditorium. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for students and $5 for seniors with a gold card. Tickets will go on sale on Monday, Feb. 25 and will remain on sale until the closing of the show. The Cherry Hill East box office will be open one hour before each performance as well as from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. Tickets can also be purchased by calling the box office at (856) 424–2222 ext. 2019.