Sussex Academy will present “Fiddler on the Roof “ at 7 p.m., Friday, May 18; and at 1 and 7 p.m., Saturday, May 19.
Over the past couple years, Sussex Academy has presented musicals such as “Legally Blonde” and “Beauty and the Beast,” but “Fiddler” does not have the same light-hearted tone. Each year, Sussex Academy’s Theatre Program attempts to strike a balance between light, comedic shows and heavier, tragic shows. This year the students in the department chose a comedy, “Lend Me a Tenor,” for the fall play, opening the door for a heavier spring musical.
“The students wanted to do something more serious with the musical and something comedic for the fall play,” said Director Erin Bobby.
“Fiddler on the Roof” is set in the Jewish village of Anatevka on the eve of the Russian Revolution. The story centers on Tevye, a Jewish milkman, who tries to preserve tradition in a world of change and division.
Naturally, such serious subject matter requires more emphasis on the students’ acting to effectively convey its themes and ideas.
“This show is so much different for me because this is the first musical where I’ve played a character that has character development,” said senior Jamie Riddle, who plays Perchik, a student with revolutionary ideas.
A greater emphasis on acting and character development, as well as the strong presence of family units in the show, made casting a unique challenge for Bobby.
“Usually it’s pretty easy casting the boys because there are not many of them, but this was a challenge as far as placement with all of the boys,” she explained. “There wasn’t a single male role where I was like, ‘Yes this is it,’ and I even had to hold a second round of callbacks to make sure everyone was placed in the right role.”
Bobby and Music Director Jerry Birl try to cast students according to their potential to eventually “live” in their roles.
“It’s really cool to watch people slip in and out of their character until eventually they become them,” said senior Tony Harrison, who will be starring in the show as Tevye. “As the lead, I’m afforded a lot more freedom with my character and what he does, which isn’t as possible for the smaller roles I’ve had in the past.”
Also new this year is the program’s choreographer, Autumn Schneider of Lewes, a faculty member of The Rock School West in Pennsylvania.
“I have had so much fun and enjoyed the process,” said Schneider. “I can’t wait to see [the show] in the final phase.”
Schneider will also be joining Sussex Academy for its April 2019 production of “Grease.”
For some, like freshmen Savannah Nagy and Keavy Rhodes who will be playing Hodel and Chava, respectively, “Fiddler on the Roof” will be their first performance. For others, like Harrison and senior Delaney Cinnamon, it will be their last. Cinnamon’s final performance on the Sussex Academy stage will be as Tevye’s wife Golde – a nice addition to her resume before beginning her pursuit of a theatre degree at Hofstra University next fall.
“I’m proud to leave this as my final show, and I'm very proud of this role because it holds true to my motto that hard work can get you anywhere,” said Cinnamon. “But it will be sad to do also. The tears during the last song, ‘Anatevka,’ will be real.”
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, and can be purchased at the door. Sussex Academy is on Airport Road in Georgetown.