Over sixty students from St Helen's and Abingdon came together to form the cast, crew and band of 'Fiddler on the Roof', this year’s Joint Senior Production. Rehearsals began in September 2017 and culminated in three triumphant, sold-out performances of Stein, Bock and Harnick’s beloved musical. Writing about her choice of play, director Jo Watt said: ‘What drew me to ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was its relevance to the world we live in today. Despite being set in the fictional Russian shtetl (small village) of Anatevka in 1905, the story of a daughter challenging her parents’ traditions and expectations remains timeless; and we don’t have to look very far to witness the displacement of individuals, families and communities from their homelands for cultural and religious reasons.’
The cast took to telling this timeless yet historically weighty tale with great dedication and teamwork, with one cast member commenting that by production week they felt like ‘one big Jewish Russian family!’ The musicians (led by Helena Rakowski) became part of the community also, taking on the role of the Anatevka village band, dressed in the same costumes as the villagers and even coming on stage to help with clearing-up in the aftermath of a ruined wedding. From the Fiddler’s soaring notes of his opening violin solo, the audience were fully engaged throughout the two-and-a-half hour show. They were laughing together at the Tevye’s charismatic monologues; enchanted at the tender relationship between husband and wife during ‘Do You Love Me?’ and silently shocked and horrified at the treatment of the community they had come to know and love at the hands of the Russians.
Charlotte, L6E, demonstrated her versatility and creativity through her musical theatre choreography debut. The acrobatics during the exuberant number ‘To Life’ elicited woops of delight from the audience and the nostalgic stillness of ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ made the most of the visually stunning starry night backdrop. So to the acting, singing, dancing, playing, sound and light operating and stage managing company of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, congratulations one and all on your rousing success.
'It seems like such a long time ago that the full cast of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ met for the first time. A full week has now passed since our first performance and I am saddened to not be working with such a fantastic group of people anymore. ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is a superb piece of musical theatre and it was such an honour to be part of it. After having performed in last year’s production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ I thought that I knew what to expect of a Joint Senior production. It turned out that I didn’t have a clue! As the end of January was looming and the prospect of performing came into view, I was in awe of how well the cast, the band and stage management came together. This was all because of the friendships and jokes that had been shared and laughed over since September 2017 - and come January the cast felt like one big Russian Jewish family.
I have many memories that I will treasure for a very long time to come, but some of my favourite moments have to be from backstage on the nights we performed. I was part of a group of people who bonded over excitement, sharing food and playing cards. Seeing the set for the first time was also very exciting and the dress rehearsals were a lot fun. However, the memory that will always make me the proudest, was when we (finally) cracked the figure of eight choreography from the opening number, ‘Tradition’ about a week before we were due to perform for the first time. This was a massive achievement for us, but I think Ms Watt was even more relieved than we were!'
'Working backstage on this year’s Senior Production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was an adventure and a ride. Having worked a little on the Middle School Production of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ I had a slight idea of what I was getting myself into. Except this was so much more than that. Taking on a much bigger role as an ASM and Props Manager had its added stress but seeing the show develop from the beginning to the end of January in time for the performances was a magical experience and one I would never change. I felt like I bonded with the cast which made both the rehearsals and performances that much more enjoyable. All the hours the incredible cast, the amazing team of backstage and crew, the fantastic band and especially Ms Watt, Ms Rakowski, Mr V and Miss Lee put in were very evident and hearing the comments from audience members was a joy knowing how much work went into this production.
Seeing Ms Watt’s super simple sketches of the ideas for set layout and bringing that to life with the help of a colour-coded excel spreadsheet for backstage, was a thrill. Challenges were overcome: from a wooden bed without wheels, to a broken wooden bed, to using a metal bed from rehearsal and making sure everything got on stage during the stressful scene change at the end of Act 1. Overall I loved working on this production and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for me in regards to theatre including the Lower School Production ‘Hetty Feather’ this summer. Thank you to all involved for making my experience so incredible.'
'St Helen and St Katharine was transformed into the Russian town of Anatevka as the curtain rose and the lights dimmed on the spectacular set for the senior production of Fiddler on the Roof. Those lucky enough to grab tickets for one of three sell-out nights were enthralled by the all-singing, all-dancing cast and treated to Oscar-worthy performances from Ben (Tevye), Bethan (Fiddler) and Emma (Golde) to name but a few. The show was both witty and moving, and despite being set in 1905, the relevance to today’s society was striking.
Mazel tov to all involved!'
Elinor, L6A, Tatler Schools Social Editor