The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 5, 2004


CCHS presents Fiddler on the Roof

When Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway in 1964, many people were certain it would flop. People had come to expect musicals to be light and frothy, with uncomplicated plots and predictably happy endings. But after 3,242 performances and becoming for a time the longest-running production in the history of Broadway, Fiddler proved that audiences were ready for more serious topicsespecially when handled with compassion and just the right touch of humor.

Teresa Huang is the Fiddler on the roof. (Photo by Carolyn Armistead)

The Concord-Carlisle High School production of Fiddler on the Roof, which opened last Friday and continues this weekend, provides a fresh look at the classic tale of Tevye the dairyman (played by Concord senior Matt Divino), his strong-willed wife Golde (Concord junior Samantha Charm), and their five daughters in the changing environment of a Jewish village in Russia in 1905. After being blown away by CCHS performances of Godspell, Ragtime, and Anything Goes in recent years, audiences have high expectations — and once again, they have not been disappointed. The students, led by music teacher/director Chuck Brown deliver an outstanding, energetic and moving performance that's well worth seeing.

Of course, any performance of Fiddler on the Roof depends on the strength of its Tevye, and Matt Divino depicts the character splendidly with his strong voice and solid stage presence. He is able to admirably convey his character's often humorous struggles with maintaining old traditions in the face of chaotic cultural changes.

Seventh-grade play

Interestingly enough, most of the students from Carlisle who are juniors this year performed in Fiddler on the Roof Jr. in seventh grade at the Carlisle School. Back in 2000, Jenny Zuk played the role of Tzeitel, the oldest daughter of Tevye, and coincidentally plays the same role in this year's CCHS version. However, her feelings about the play — and her role — have changed a great deal over the past four years.

Stage manager Michael Johnson with tools of the trade.

"It's amazing. The show feels so different — it's on a whole new level," says Zuk. "Everyone is more mature, and the story feels more real. The characters and their lives mean so much more. I feel like I've learned a lot." Zuk says she has also enjoyed playing big sister on stage to her real-life little sister Carolyn, who plays the role of Bielke, Tevye's youngest daughter. Carolyn is a fifth grader at the Carlisle School.

In the seventh grade, junior Alex Brewer played the role of the Constable, the character who reluctantly carries out orders to drive the Jews out of their home village of Anatevka. In this year's production, Brewer plays Perchik, the student and revolutionary who courts Tevye's daughter Hodel (Concord senior Rebecca Lawrence). "There's a fire in him," Brewer says of his character. "He has a strong passion in everything he does, like his relationship with Hodel and his activist values. He has a strong energy."

The wedding scene

Brewer says his favorite scene in the show is the wedding of Tzeitel and Motel the tailor (played by Concord junior Evan Pasha), in which his character Perchik does the unthinkable — he steps over the barrier between men and women and dares to ask a woman to dance. "That scene has everything," he says. "During 'Sunrise, Sunset', everyone is on stage. It's such a beautiful, sad song. Then there are the festivities and dancing. The more serious action happens when the Russians come. There's a lot going on." Also during the wedding scene is the memorable "bottle dance," during which four young men (including Carlisle juniors Max Lewin and Aaron Marks) balance bottles on their heads (no easy feat) while dancing.

Carlisle students in Fiddler include (left to right) Nikki Armistead (Shaindel), Alex Brewer (Perchik), Carolyn Zuk (Bielke), Jenny Zuk (Tzeitel) and Olivia Vienneau (Fruma-Sarah). (Photo by Carolyn Armistead)
Before there can be a wedding however, Tevye has to convince Golde that it is better for Tzeitel to marry Motel (with whom Tzeitel has fallen in love) than follow through with an arranged marriage to the prosperous village butcher, Lazar Wolf (Concord junior Graham Jenkins). In one of the best scenes in the show, Tevye pretends that Fruma-Sarah, the butcher's dead first wife, appears to him in a haunting dream and threatens to harm Tzeitel if she marries the butcher.

Aaron Marks (left) as Yussel and Patrick Offenheiser as Sasha. (Photo by Carolyn Armistead)

Junior Olivia Vienneau (who played a dancer in the Carlisle School version) plays the role of the spooky Fruma-Sarah, shrieking and gliding onto stage on an impressive wheeled contraption (informally called "the tank") that makes her about ten feet tall. "It's really fun. I get to be crazy and scary. And luckily I'm not afraid of heights," says Vienneau. "There are a lot of sad moments in this show, and most of the songs are love songs or leaving-town songs, so it's fun to offer some comic relief."

Fiddler on the Roof features many well-known tunes, including "Tradition", "Matchmaker", "To Life" and "Do You Love Me?" There are several group numbers that depict beautiful Jewish rituals, such as the candle-lighting during the song "Sabbath Prayer." "I've had a lot of Jewish families come up to me to say they were pleased with how sensitive we've been to the material," says director Chuck Brown. "That's important."

Carlisle students

In addition to those mentioned above, Carlisle students in the cast of Fiddler on the Roof include Teresa Huang (in the role of the Fiddler — who really does play the violin and really does perch on the roof), Nikki Armistead (as Shaindel, Motel's mother), and Patrick Offenheiser (as Sasha). The dance corps includes Carlisle students Laura Bryant, Katie DeGugleilmo and Jacqueline O'Kelly. Papas and Mamas include Amy Chateauneuf, Elizabeth Cheever, Emily Fritz-Endres, Cassidy Lane and Nikki Spencer. The Sons and Daughters include Allison Bryan, Heather Gladstone, Catherine O'Kelly, Priya Ramanathan, Maia Reed and Walter Woodward.

The Fiddler pit orchestra features Carlisle students William Scarlett, Benjamin Brewer, Molly Crowther, Matthew Phillippo, Kathleen Walsh, Ravi Ramanathan, Christine Shaver and Jessica Nock.

Behind the scenes are stage manager Michael Johnson, Abigail Rolando and Katie Stack doing lighting, Stephanie Ivanov doing sound, and Max Alexander-Gill and Tom Phillips on stage crew.

Fiddler on the Roof continues this weekend, with performances on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 2:30. Tickets are $15 each and are available on the CC-POPS (Concord-Carlisle Patrons of Performing Students) web site,, or at the door.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito