RHS Drama Club Brings Stage “To Life” with Fiddler on the Roof

Senior Gavin Emdur (Tevye) and junior Elizabeth Morgievich (The Fiddler) perform a scene together in the RHS Drama Club production of Fiddler on the Roof on March 24, 2023, in the high school auditorium.

Jessica Ackerman, Arts Editor

Members of the RHS Drama Club masterfully performed the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof” on Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25 in the high school auditorium.

The cast, crew, and production team had been rehearsing tirelessly since December of 2022 to create a stunningly authentic rendition of the Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock and Jerome Robbins theatrical masterpiece.

The cast, led by senior Gavin Emdur as Tevye; juniors Mikayla Watkins as Golde, Amelia Diaz as Hodel, Amaia Biggan as Tzeitel, Aydan Salim as Motel and Turner Allen as Fyedka; as well as sophomores Brendan Angilello as Perchik and Tina Yuan as Chava; and junior Elizabeth Morgievich as The Fiddler, used their remarkably vivid musical talent to draw audiences in from the first note of “Tradition” to the last note of “Anatevka.”

Under the skillful guidance of directors Jacob Burlas and Courtney Messina, music director Ann Kelly and choreographer Colleen McArdle, the principal talent was also complemented by a colorful ensemble presence featuring some of the school’s best singers, dancers and actors.

“I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so much talent for my first and last show at the high school,” senior ensemble member Raina Patel said. “Everyone looked amazing on stage, and I’m so proud of what we accomplished as a cast.”

Highlights of the performance were abundant; After the full cast worked in perfect harmony to perform the iconic opening song, “Tradition,” Diaz, Biggan, Yuan, sophomore Vaishnavi Swarna as Schprintze and freshman Hannah Hutchinson as Bielke performed a beautifully heart-wrenching rendition of the beloved song “Matchmaker.”

Following this, senior Gavin Emdur, who played Tevye and served as Dramaturg, delivered a perfectly wistful performance of the iconic “If I were a Rich Man,” which led into the chilling “Sabbath Prayer” and vivacious “To Life,” all featuring a blend of original Broadway choreography and original concepts by sophomore student choreographer Emma Basa and dance captains Harsh Magdum and Jessica Ackerman.

Following “To Life” was a hauntingly energetic full-ensemble performance of “The Dream,” featuring sophomore Alexa Rowe as Fruma Sarah, the dead wife of the butcher Lazar Wolf, who comes to Tevye in a dream to warn him about letting Lazar Wolf marry Tzeitel. The number truly checked all the boxes of a multifaceted thriller; incorporated into the piece were two dry ice machines to create fog, a movable bed with an inlet for Rowe to emerge from, and eerie vocals and cerography that were, as stated by senior audience member Sofie Tepperman, “terrifyingly amazing.”

However, the true test of exceptionalism was met with the renowned wedding scene. The scene is arguably the most iconic moment of the show, as it is the first time that multiple characters break from the traditional lifestyle so often preached by Tevye.

“We used a lot of Robbins’ choreographic structures to help as a baseline for our numbers and then created the more detailed choreography to fit our cast’s personal strengths,” said sophomore Emma Basa, the student choreographer and ensemble member.  “It helped us develop an idea of the storytelling through these dances, which guided us with this complex and artistic piece.”

One of the hallmark challenges of this piece was the infamous Bottle Dance, which occurs during the first song directly after Tzeitel marries Motel. The ten selected dancers for the piece, assisted by McArdle, Ackerman, and bottle dancing expert Carolina Baez from NJ Dance and Show Performing Arts, immaculately balanced glass bottles on their heads without any attachment device and performed the folk-style dance with artful technique and musicality. Even if a bottle dropped, the dancers were instructed to keep going, which also added a comedic layer to the moment.

“I think the bottle dance was really fun to learn and was exhilarating when we performed it in front of an audience,” said Magdum, who was one of the selected dancers. “If I dropped the bottle, I stayed in character. Dropping the bottle also showed the audience that the bottle dance was real, so I wasn’t t too upset if I dropped it.”

The second act of the show was more melancholic, but the company’s infectious energy kept the audiences at the edge of their seats until Morgievich turned off the last lantern in the final scene. Featuring iconic pieces such as “The Rumor,” led by senior Alexa Helmke as Yente; a tearfully glowing portrayal of “Chaveleh,” with ballet choreography by Basa and performed by Yuan and Allen; and the chillingly dramatic “Anatevka,” sung by the entire company.

“All of the Fiddler dances are very special to me as choreographer, but my favorite to choreograph was definitely ‘Chavaleh,’ a number that reflected on Chava’s life with her family before she chose to marry a Russian named Fyedka,” Basa said. “Every character and movement involved had a reason and meaning to the story of Chava’s life. The story behind the piece made the number so interesting and moving to me, and I was always so excited and proud to watch the number from backstage.”

Every performance received a full audience standing ovation and for good reason. As stated by Vice Principal Matthew Agrati in a message to the cast, “Fiddler on the Roof” “was the best [musical] I have seen at RHS in my nine years here.”

Members of the Drama Club extended their utmost gratitude to the faculty involved in the technical and logistic aspects of the show, who, as stated by senior Ben Neufeld after the closing night performance, “are the reason [the audience] could see and hear the show.”

They also acknowledged the Student Production team, which included the following:

  • Student Director: Vanessa Baron
  • Dramaturgs: Gavin Emdur and Emma Carothers
  • Community Coordinators: Mikayla Watkins and Harsh Magdum
  • Student Choreographer: Emma Basa
  • Dance Captains: Harsh Magdum and Jessica Ackerman
  • Student Music Director: Amaia Biggan
  • Stage Managers: Angela Remick and Carolyn Marconi
  • Artistic Director: Sophia Fliegler
  • Costume Designer/Property Master: First name? Carmona
  • Technical Liaison: Georgia Cullen

These students combined their individual expertise to apply it to a seemingly daunting show, which resulted in a professional-quality masterpiece on the RHS stage. “I wouldn’t say every day was easy, but we truly gave it our all to come together and create a musical we’re proud of,” said Fliegler of the leadership team’s collaborative efforts.

The cast and crew also acknowledged that this production would not have been possible without the RHS Choir & Theater Booster Association (CTBA), which consists of dedicated parents who provided funding, advertising and meals for the company to help elevate their performance to such a spectacular place. With their enormous help, the Drama Club anticipates being able to put on captivating musical performances for years to come.