The Kentwood Players stage America’s favorite Broadway musical set in tsarist Russia
By Michael Aushenker
For Harold Dershimer, whose last Kentwood Players production was 2012’s staging of the musical “Oliver,” directing “Fiddler on the Roof” at Westchester Playhouse marks something of a full-circle moment.
“It’s funny how life comes back at you. When I was a kid learning to play the keyboards, the first music that my music teacher brought to me was from ‘Oliver.’ The next one was ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’” Dershimer said.
With “Fiddler on the Roof,” certain associations surely spring to mind, including toe-tappers “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset” and the 1971 Oscar-winning Norman Jewison movie starring Topol.
This version of the musical inspired by Sholem Aleichem’s “Tevye and His Daughters” relies on the original 1964 Broadway book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.
A Hawthorne resident who has directed plays at the Courtyard Playhouse in Palos Verdes, Dershimer intends to trade on all of the play’s popular associations.
Childhood songbook aside, Dershimer was attracted to “Fiddler” by its atypical framework.
“What’s great about the production is how the story grows but the music falls,” he said. “They work against each other, [starting] with a giant number in act one. There’s life and happiness and hope and keeping on with tradition, then it all falls apart and all the songs become solos.”
Distinguishing this version of the oft-mounted crowd-pleaser, Dershimer lays it on the line: “It’s really about the staff that I pick. Our set is going to be gorgeous. [Set designer] Scot Renfro is a brilliant painter. Visually, it will be very appealing. The dream sequence will be in black light and very freaky looking.”
The theater’s entire interior will be incorporated into the art design to resemble the Russian shtetl of Anatevka.
But the biggest challenge in casting this particular “Fiddler”? Nailing the dancing in “To Life.”
“It’s hard to get a lot of older men who could pull off those moves,” Dershimer said with a chuckle.
Produced by Rocky and Victoria Miller with musical direction by Catherine Rahm and choreography by Isabella Olivas, “Fiddler” includes Bradley Miller as Tevye the Dairyman, Susie McCarthy as his wife, and Kelsey Nisbett , Carly Linehan and Jessica D. Stone as Tevye’s daughters.
Performances of “Fiddler on the Roof” start at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays at Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., Westchester. Additional 8 p.m. Thursday performances happen April 3, 10 and 17. $21-$23. Call (310) 645-5156 or visit kentwoodplayers.org.