Chantilly High's newest theatre production, "Fiddler on the Roof," has been a long time in the making. It's the school's first musical in years, and the cast started work before the last school year was over.
"Auditions were held last June, and the actors were expected to know their lines by the time rehearsals began in August," said drama director Shannon Spicer. "By showtime, we'll have done a little over 200 hours of rehearsal."
"Fiddler" will be presented Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 20-23, at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets, $7, are available Nov. 18-22, from 2:30-4 p.m., in the school lobby. Besides the 40-student cast, 20 orchestra members will perform, and those who've seen rehearsals know the local community has a real treat in store.
"This area has been thirsty for a musical — Chantilly hasn't done one for seven or eight years," said Spicer. "Everyone can enjoy it, and having a large cast gives everyone the opportunity to let their talents shine. The students had to learn how to sing, dance and act at the same time, and they're doing a fabulous job."
Set in the Russian village of Anatevka in 1905, the play tells the story of Tevye, Golda and the three eldest of their five daughters. "Tevye is a Jew and a typical family man, poor but proud," said senior Joe Cassara, 17, who portrays him. "By showing how his three oldest daughters find love on their own, the play shows how his world and society are changing."
Cassara says it's the hardest thing he's ever had to do on stage. "I have to portray a wide range of emotions, plus Tevye's life is very different from my own," he said. And because the whole play revolves around his character, Cassara is on stage most of the time.
Still, this varsity baseball player and Show Choir member is glad to "show off something other than the jock and the singer."
Senior Sarah Frook plays Golda, worrying about her family and wanting a better life for her daughters. "She and her husband have kind of a love/hate relationship," said Frook, 17. "She loves him, but she's always on his case for something or other. She's fun to play because I get to yell at a lot of people. She lets Tevye think he's in control, but she really is."
Frook said it's challenging playing a "large and imposing" old woman because she's more laid back. "It gives me a lot of different aspects of her personality to explore," she said. "For example, she really cares about her family and husband, but doesn't always show it."
Her favorite song is "Sabbath Prayer," where the family is gathered around the table, blessing the sabbath candles. Also in Show Choir, Frook says acting's a new experience, but one she's enjoying: "It's hard work, but definitely worth it."
Senior Emily Bever plays Yenta the matchmaker. "She's an old busybody who doesn't have anything else to do, so she's in the center of everyone's problems," said Bever.
Yenta makes marital matches between people in the village, and she and Tevye are both bound by tradition. "It's really fun — she's very 'out there,' voicing her opinion; I never have to hold back anything," said Bever. "She's a comical character, but it's fun to make her into a real person, especially at the end."
Noting that the two main characters, Golda and Tevye, are both chorus members, Bever says it's a plus for the show. "It's neat to see people who usually act, sing, and people who usually sing, act," she said. "It's been great because we've been able to help each other out."
Stephanie Wilbur, 18, plays the oldest daughter, Tzeitel, who's responsible and must set a good example for her younger sisters. She falls in love with her childhood friend, Motel the tailor. Yenta and Tevye want her to marry a wealthy older man, but she refuses, saying she'd be unhappy, "all of her days."
"It takes lots of time to piece together the music, acting and choreography, but the cast is excellent," said Wilbur. "And it's been fun getting to know the underclassmen and helping them carry on drama-department tradition." She said her part also made her grow as an actress.
"I've always been afraid of singing in public, and this role has helped me overcome that," she explained. "And it's been awesome studying the culture, religion and traditions of the Jewish people, because I'm Catholic. I think we'll have a great turnout for this musical — and we'd better — we've worked really hard."
Ryan Plavnieks, 17, plays Motel, reserved and lacking self-confidence. "He really loves Tzeitel but, back then, matchmakers arranged marriages," he said. "So falling in love on our own is wrong. I have to tell her father that I love her, and I finally work up my nerve and do it. It's breaking tradition and is the first time it's happened in Tevye's family."
Plavnieks said he likes how, at first, Motel is shy and doesn't know how to talk to people, but then finds the courage to speak to Tevye. The best part of his role, he said, is "when I get a chance to explode. It's fun saying the line, 'Even a poor tailor deserves some happiness."
Playing the second-oldest daughter, Hodel, is senior Katie Poandl. "She's not afraid to speak her mind and challenge people," she said. "But at the same time, she firmly believes in everything she's been taught. So she's shocked when she meets Perchik [a student from Kiev], because he calls into question all her traditions and forces her to question all her beliefs."
Furthermore, said Poandl, when Hodel makes up her mind about something, she's not afraid to do what she has to, to accomplish that goal. She likes the part because "it's not easy to change that greatly in the space of a few hours and a few scenes, so you have to get right into character and figure out what's in her head."
Her favorite song is "Matchmaker" because she and her stage "sisters" have such good chemistry together that "it's like being with your real sisters, having a good time." Poandl believes the audience will enjoy "Fiddler" because "everyone's committed to this show and to doing their best."
Jae Laroya, 15, plays Perchik, who's more educated than the people of Anatevka and falls in love with Hodel. "Tevye doesn't want him to be with his daughter because he revolves his life around tradition and Perchik is [a rebel] who bends tradition," he said. Laroya also noted how different Perchik is from the other characters.
"Throughout the play, he's trying to open people's eyes to new ways of life and let them know they don't always have to do things by the book," explained Laroya. "One of my favorite scenes is where Tevye and Hodel are saying goodbye at the train station and they don't know when they'll see each other again. I also like the scene where I propose to Hotel because I expose a lot more of Perchik's feelings."
Senior Alex Keiper plays the third-oldest daughter, Chava. At first, she's meek and tries to please others. But she's a bit rebellious — girls then weren't supposed to read, but she does. Against her faith and traditions, she falls in love with Fyedka, a Russian and a Christian.
"When I tell my dad I want to marry him, he kicks me out of the house," said Keiper. "I marry him, anyway, but it's the hardest thing in the world for me to say goodbye to my family. I love the part where I'm screaming, trying to get my father to listen to me, while he's walking away.
Portraying Fyedka is junior Nick Crowley. Unlike most Russians then, Fyedka sympathizes with the Jews and wants to be peaceful, but the Jews are scared of him and won't accept him. "He's split between two different groups, so the role's more challenging than others I've had," said Crowley. "I also like how he's flirtatious and fun-loving."
Meggie O'Connor, stage manager with Trisha Durrant, says Chantilly's already gotten tons of calls for tickets. Said O'Connor: "It's gonna be awesome."