Behind the Scenes: The Fiddler on the Roof

by Stephanie Russo

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Patricia McCarron and Austin Ryan rehearse a scene

Every spring the RFH Tower Players give audiences the show of a lifetime. This spring, they performed the traditional musical production of Fiddler on the Roof, based on “Tevye the Milkman and Other Short Stories” written by Sholem Aleichmen.

Fiddler on the Roof is a highly acclaimed production that has been nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine in categories reaching from Best Musical to Best Choreography.  The musical tells the tale of a Jewish family in Russia defying the religious traditions that define their lives.

The Tower Players cast pour their hearts into preparing for the show: memorizing lines, tuning voices, detailing body language, and much more.  However, what about the costumes, houses, backdrop, and music that flows with the actors as they drift across the stage?  Before and during the show, what is perhaps most impressive is what the audience doesn’t see.   There’s a whole other world behind the curtains just waiting to be exposed…

The Pit Orchestra: Imagine.  You’re sitting in your theater seat, shifting your weight in anticipation for Fiddler on the Roof. And right before the curtains open, a rich, warm sound fills your ears. The work of the RFH Pit Orchestra flows around you, incorporating a clarinet, oboe, cello, piano, bass guitar, accordion, two violins, two trumpets, and three flutes. Mr. Grillo, this year’s composer to the orchestra, remarked on the importance of an orchestra in a musical production:

Bret Shindel as the Fiddler.

“Imagine a movie with a music score. No matter how elaborate or simple the score may be, its effect on the motion picture is what gives the production emotional impact. The spring musical is the same concept. Without the pit orchestra, there would be no ambience under dialogue or accompaniment to all of the musical numbers.”

The pit, comprised of fourteen enthusiastic members, practices three days a week.  One member, senior Bret Shindel,is both a violinist and actor, and performs as both for his roll as The Fiddler. While onstage, Shindel will be playing the violin on the roofs and dirt paths of the town of Anatevka.  This mixture of orchestrated music and body language brought the RFH Tower Players to new heights in their performance.

The Tech Crew: As you sit in the audience, you watch the curtain begin to peel back, exposing a new scene of disheveled houses within a small town enveloped in the woods. This scene took approximately 130 hours for the RFH tech crew to create. Tech Crew advisor, Mr. Pagano, shed some light onto the goal of tech crew:

“The focus of tech crew is to incorporate all of the skills and creative components associated with stagecraft to a substantial percentage of RFH students. Our focus also includes creating a high quality final product that coincides with the artistic ideas of the drama dept… Tech Crew allows a large group of students to participate in an activity that challenges there building, lighting, sound stagecraft skills.”

Tech crew members work at all times during production. During the show they are always on the scene, moving set pieces and making any necessary repairs. Their contribution to the play is enormous, creating a strong bond with theater.

The cast in the garb of Anatevka

Costume Design: Finally, after hearing original music and viewing the elaborate set, you see the actors enter sporting authentic Tsarist Russian ensembles.  Women wear long skirts and scarves cover their hair, while men wear hats and Jewish prayer shawls. The outfits begin to work hand in hand with the music and scenery, completing the illusion of the town and people of Anatevka.

Stephen Biga has been an avid member on the props team for three years. His participation in props taught him a great deal about the production of clothing, such as the fundamentals of sewing and pattern creation. Biga tells us that being a member of props has even inspired him to design his own clothing.

RFH proudly performed Fiddler on the Roof from March 19th-21st with great success due to the heart and devotion each group and crew member put into its production.

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2 Responses to “Behind the Scenes: The Fiddler on the Roof”

  1. Mama J Says:

    Great job Stephanie! I think you captured everything that goes on behind the scenes of a Tower Players production beautifully!!

  2. Suzanne Biga Says:

    Stephanie, this was a wonderful article about the “village” that creates the “child” (a.k.a. the show). I’m always amazed by how well everything comes together for Tower Players productions. Everyone does their part, whether it’s as an actor, musician, tailor, artist, carpenter, or a member of the tech or stage crew. Thanks for the sneak peek into Fiddler.


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