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The City Journals

Highland High performs an authentic and traditional ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

Nov 27, 2018 02:16PM ● By Spencer Belnap

Golde, her daughters, and other village Mamas in Highland High's Fiddler on the Roof. (courtesy Alexie Baugh/ Highland High Theatre)

By Spencer W. Belnap | [email protected] 

Highland High School’s Theatre Department produces a big musical each school year traditionally in the fall and offered up the classic “Fiddler on the Roof” for their first production this season. 

It ran from Nov. 5-13 in their main auditorium. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors comprised the cast of more than 50 in what has become one of the most popular musicals of all time. It is the historical tale of Tevye, a simple Jewish milkman from Imperial Russia at the turn of the 20th century. The struggles of him, his family and their town are brought to life in song and dance year after year across the country.

“When choosing the school musical, the biggest thing I consider is variety,” Alexie Shaffer Baugh, theater teacher and director said. “In having many students join us for the show for all four years of high school, I try to offer them a chance to perform a comedic piece, a dramatic piece, a classical piece and a contemporary piece. I want them to try the whole gamut of theatrical options.”

This year’s foray into ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was no small undertaking for Baugh and her students. The auditions were the first week of school in August, and rehearsals began the second week. There were the typical processes of vocal practice, movement blocking and choreography, and character development and research. The cast and crew wanted to portray the era and culture as authentically and accurately as possible though, so additional efforts were factored in. Baugh invited in a local rabbi for one of the rehearsals. He answered questions and helped them understand and connect to the material. The cast even held a traditional Shabbat dinner one Friday night. 

“We scheduled one rehearsal just for a history lesson,” Baugh said. “Knowing we have a number of Jewish families and students in our program at Highland, we wanted to make sure to be honest and respectful and honor their traditions. One of our parents taught us about the Jewish ceremonies and blessings.” 

All the extra attention to detail and tradition came through during the performance. The young cast had great chemistry that shined through in musical moments such as the “To Life” and “Sunrise, Sunset” numbers. The wedding between Tevye’s daughter, Tzeitzel, and the village tailor, Motel, at the end of act one was another moment that showed how much they cared about the culture they were depicting. There were nuanced gestures as the rabbi and the two lovers performed the ceremony, and the traditional dances were fun to watch. By the time Tevye and his fellow Jewish villagers were forced to flee Russia at the end of the show, an audience member could tell the director and cast had worked hard to bring the classic production to life.

Highland’s Theatre Department stays busy all year long. They will be producing a Broadway Revue on Dec. 14 and a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as their winter play Feb. 6-11. A student-directed and student-designed production of the musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone” will be performed in April.