Students and families come together to bring the classic story to the stage
Michael McCormic Jr.
WASHOUGAL — Beginning this weekend, Journey Theater Arts Group will transport audiences to the Russian town of Anatevka through a live stage production of Fiddler on the Roof.
The classic musical tells the story of Tevye, a Russian Jew, and his five daughters, as they navigate a changing world while clinging to the traditions of their heritage.
For Director Marla Riley, Fiddler on the Roof has a special place in her heart. So much so, in fact, that this will be the third time she has directed this show through Journey Theater.
“Fiddler on the Roof was the first professional show that I saw performed in Chicago when I was in 7th grade, and I fell in love with it then. So when the opportunity came through CYT, now Journey, I couldn’t have been more thrilled,” says Riley, who first directed Fiddler on the Roof for Journey Theater back when the company was known as CYT Vancouver-Portland.
Journey Theater’s primary focus is on youth theater productions and giving its students the opportunity to grow in performing arts-related skills. As such, Fiddler on the Roof is performed by students ages 8 through 18, who began rehearsing for this production seven weeks ago.
Riley says of the students involved in this production, “They take direction very well, but then they also put their own personality and understanding of the character into it themselves. To see them make that happen is just an amazing thing to see.”
One might expect that spending dozens of hours in rehearsal and learning the show from beginning to end might completely exhausting for the students on stage. However, those coming to watch Fiddler on the Roof will find that the actors and actresses in this production look to be enjoying the show just as much the audience.
Jeremy Bode, who plays the role of Tevye, says that, though the show has been a lot of work, he has enjoyed being part of the production thus far. “My experience being in this show has been really good. We have a great cast, and I think we have a really good artistic team, and I think they’re managing us and treating us very well,” Bode explains.
Journey Theater Arts Group describes their productions as “professional-quality” musicals, and, as such, many heads and hands go into producing a show such as this. Often times, entire families get involved, with some working backstage, some working on lighting and sound, and some working on stage. Not only does Fiddler on the Roof feature a full cast of 68 students, there are also 38 different committees comprised of the parents of actors and actresses in the production in order to operate microphones, build sets, organize auctions, provide security for performances, and bring the show to to the professional level that Journey Theater advertises.
Riley says, “These kids that have been doing hours and hours of practice and the parents doing their work, it’s an amazing thing to see come together.”
As the show opens this weekend and people are welcomed into the theater to see this production, the cast and artistic team hope that the audience walks away with something valuable and memorable.
Susie Rogers, who plays the Fiddler and is a self-professed Fiddler on the Roof fanatic, says, “I want to them to have had fun and to have seen a show that reflects the movie they’re familiar with and the story they know. And if they haven’t seen it, then something new that they can learn from.”
As the director of this production, Riley says she hopes audiences will get a few takeaways from this production.
“From the perspective of a parent or a grandparent or a friend who’s watching, I want them to see what their kids are capable of doing. The standards for a Journey show are put pretty high, and these kids live up to those expectations,” Riley explains. “The other thing is to hear the story that was told; the beautiful story of the people of Anatevka and how hard their lives were, and the joys that they had, and the defeats.”
Journey Theater’s production of Fiddler on the Roof opens May 18 at the Washburn Performing Arts Center in Washougal and closes May 27. Tickets for the first weekend of performances can be purchased at the door as available, and tickets for the second weekend of performances can be purchased online at www.journeytheater.org.