To Life! Fiddler on the Roof by Traverse City West Senior High

By Pamela McCormick

Professional Photos by Mike Drilling – Windborne Photographic

Fiddler on the Roof, the timelessly traditional musical, was recently presented by the cast and crew from Traverse City West Senior High. The evening was filled with incredible music, singing, dancing, complemented by a glimpse into wonderful Jewish customs and traditions.

The production was led by local professionals and educators; Director/Choreographer, Minda Nyquist, Director/Producer, Eric Ranke, and Director/Producer/Conductor, Erich Wangeman.  Their Directors’ notes encapsulate the story well: “Though the story takes place in a very specific place and time, the thematic material…faith, family, hope, love, and tradition, still resonate with countless people and transcends borders and cultures worldwide.”

Innovative set design by Matt Wiliford utilized the imagination of the audience to bring the small town of Anatevka to life. Gorgeous hues of blue above, with orange/red below, imagined a sunrise on the horizon thanks to lighting designer, Ed Blackburn. Gobo designs graced the floor with an intriguing wooden walkway; framed by three simple trees and leaves on the ground. A dream-like stated was created with the introduction of fog as the Fiddler (played by Angela Green) stepped into the spotlight with the familiar sounds of Jerry Bock’s original score from 1964.  


The audience ‘met’ the lovable local dairyman, Tevye, the driving force of the musical, who shared his take on Jewish customs, “As the good book always says….” His humor and witty inner thoughts about tradition, family, and ultimately change, set the tone for entire musical.  Played exuberantly by Senior, Jack Rusinowski, Tevye was in a word, REMARKABLE. His deep tone and voice with grit embodied the original Tevyes from Broadway and Film. Jack attacked the role with an infectious spirit and carried the show of talented students and musicians.  Tevyke’s wife, Golde, ultimately in charge, unbeknownst to him, was played by Senior, Daniela Castillo. Her beautiful voice and grace enhanced their partnership as lead characters.

The opening number was unforgettable as TC West Students graced the stage in their various roles as the “papas, mamas, sons, and daughters” with the song, “Tradition!” The blending of gifted student voices, musicians and movement from the sounds reverberated to the back of the theater. The audience was mesmerized, and the cast earned its first round of thunderous applause. Personal “traditions” crossed over this writer’s thoughts as Tevye shared Jewish customs and traditions in order to “maintain life balance.”

Photo By Ed Blackburn

The night was filled with wonderful acting and music. “Matchmaker,” an interesting foreshadowing of the future of the daughters, was nicely crafted by Gold Cast members, Ella Stewart who played Tzeitel and Bailey Noble (who played Hodel). They, along with Chava played by Megan Walscczak, took on their characters with passion as they sang and danced effortlessly across the stage on their final performance.

Personal favorite musical numbers were countless. (Tevye) Jack Rusinowski’s performance of, “If I were a Rich Man” along his baritone movie promo voice with layers of grit and grounded movement complemented the song and was met with another round of thunderous applause. Soulful moments during the Sabbath Prayer and Wedding scene with a beautiful rendition of “Sunrise, Sunset” were followed by joyous dancing from the various cultures at the Inn with, “To Life!” The bottle dancers and the Chavala ft. Pas de deux featuring Sidney Newcomb were beautifully performed.

A standout performance was when Motel the Tailor (played by Gold Cast Member, JJ Beck) took the stage with his bride to be, Tzeitel (Ella Stewart) for the song “Miracle of Miracles.” JJ Beck took on the character with superb playful movement, enthusiasm, and a stunning voice. Bravo!

Another big moment was Tevye’s Dream. Set in the bedroom, the atmosphere was completed with bed caps and nightgowns. It was dramatic, hysterical and SPOT ON… The moment when Grandma Tzeitel (Via Novarro) appeared from the smoky cloud was exciting and even humorous, but when the larger than large image of Fruma Sarah (Jenna Hickey) appeared high above the other characters it was…SPELLBINDING. (As a fellow choreographer, this writer is still trying to figure out how they got her up there in a stabilized way.)

The second half took on an expected soulful, heart touching vibe for any familiar with the original story. The traditions evolve into modern thinking. There were marriage moments about LOVE, in “Do You Love Me?” and parenting moments (especially those with seniors can relate to) of their “little birds” or “Little Chavealeh” moving “Far From the Home I Love.” Each rendition was beautifully expressed in song and dance.

The entire ensemble, chorus, cast and crew presented a spectacular show. Congratulations to everyone involved! I only wish I could have seen some of the talented green cast members perform their characters. Hint: an encore of the entire performance would probably sell out in minutes.

Photo by Windborne

The Directors’ notes ended with, “We hope bringing this piece to the community can make a small difference for others near and far.”  Thank you, Traverse City West cast and crew. You did just that, your incredible version of, “Fiddler on the Roof” touched hearts and souls. It expressed how traditions may evolve overtime, but ultimately LOVE is what connects all… and here’s, “To Life – L’Chaim!”

For a more in-depth look, here are links to some wonderful pre-show interviews from our local media:

Christal Frost Podcast – http://cfpod.libsyn.com/noah-hoxie-ella-stewart-fiddler-on-the-roof

9&10 News https://www.9and10news.com/2019/11/14/traverse-city-west-presents-fiddler-on-the-roof/

Up North Live – https://www.facebook.com/UpNorthLive/videos/2550445721948508/

IPR – Interlochen Public Radio – https://www.interlochenpublicradio.org/post/music-fiddler-roof-traverse-city-west-high-school

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