Fiddler on the Roof lands on Brentwood stage

Dane Broere, Rickus Senekal, and Trenton Gagnon toss William Kenny in the air during a Jewish traditional wedding dance in a scene of Fiddler on the Roof. - Andrew Leong
Dane Broere, Rickus Senekal, and Trenton Gagnon toss William Kenny in the air during a Jewish traditional wedding dance in a scene of Fiddler on the Roof.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

When Director of Arts Edna Widenmaier thought about staging Fiddler on the Roof at Brentwood College, she knew it couldn't be done without the right person to play the lead role of Tevye.

"We choose our shows to showcase our kids — not the other way around,'' said Widenmaier.

From all the talented performing arts students at the school who are extraordinary singers and dancers, she knew one of  the most famous musicals in the world could be done because a vision of Tevye appeared before her. "Liam happens to be the guy,'' said Widenmaier.

Liam Laturnus, 17, a Grade 12 student kind of knew it, too.

"Everyone always said, 'you'd make a great Tevye,'' said Laturnus.

And so Widenmaier started putting the show together in September, knowing that her leading man was set. Rehearsals have intensified since the Christmas break toward the opening of another classic Brentwood production Tuesday.

"Everything is going very, very well,'' said Widenmaier. "I refer to this show as a musical drama because the style is so very important to it.''

The setting in Czarist Russia makes it a challenge to recreate in many ways.

"You're taking modern students and casting them back to a 1905 village,'' said Widenmaier. "There's a lot of learning of what it was like in those villages. This has been a big learning curve for the students.''

As much as Tevye's character is important to the show, the full cast of 49 — including 13 principals — requires an abundance of talent that Brentwood's arts program manages to provide to pull it off.

"It's always been on my radar because of the story and the music is so well-known,'' said Widenmaier.

"Fiddler on the Roof is a powerful statement about the evils of prejudice and the importance of maintaining a warm, caring communal and family life in the midst of severe oppression,'' reads a media information sheet from Brentwood on the performance. "Although the story of Tevye the Milkman and his family is specifically concerned with the lives of impoverished Jews in Czarist Russia in 1905, it is built around universal themes which all audiences can understand.

"As Tevye tells us, 'Without their traditions, he and the other villagers would find their lives 'as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.'''

Laturnus has seen the movie a couple of times.

"This one really suited my personality,'' he said. "To really dive into the character, it was doable.''

Laturnus is also the captain of musical theatre this year and said he always needs to keep the 'newbies' in mind and provide guidance from his experience.

"Along with that, I have to focus on myself,'' he said.

"It is a great character to play. I loved learning the lines just to become the character.''

His Tevye accent is noticeable to students around campus.

Kira Carroll, 18, a Grade 12 student, plays the role of Golda, Tevye's wife.

"It's the first time I've ever done something of her age,'' said Carroll, who also appeared in recent In The Heights and Phantom of the Opera productions.

Musical theatre is becoming old hat for her.

"I've been doing it for a very long time, ever since I was a little girl,'' Carroll said.

She has also watched the movie and is excited to see the show come together.

"I think we're all really fired up to go,'' Carroll said.

"I didn't really know anything about the history context and about what happened during that era.''

Emily Bradbury, 16, a Grade 11 student, plays Hodel, one of Tevye's daughters.

Bradbury has worked professionally a couple of times backstage and been with the choir and done "a bunch of performing arts outside of school.

"I've never done a very traditional production before,'' she said.

"I had to do a lot of research into Russia in 1905 to get into the character of that,'' Bradbury said.

"The character very much struggles with tradition,'' she added of Tevye's middle daughter. "She doesn't quite fit in. She's not willing to accept some of the tradition.''

Rehearsals have been going great, Bradbury said, especially with the addition of the orchestra to bring it closer to the final stages. It's an exciting time for the cast.

"Quite a few of the members of the cast are new — especially the principals,'' Bradbury said.

"I've never done Fiddler before,'' added musical director Phil Newns. "I'm quite excited about doing it.''

After doing In The Heights last year, "This is more in keeping with traditional musicals,'' added Newns.

A 24-piece orchestra will add the necessary pizzazz to the production.

"I think we've got a good sort of team, I would say, putting the shows together,'' raved Newns.

Your ticket

What: Fiddler on the Roof

When: Tuesday, Feb. 25 through Saturday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Brentwood College T. Gil Bunch Theatre

Tickets: going fast for Friday and Saturday, available through www.brentwood.bc.ca/booking

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