by Claire Caviglia
“Tradee-tion! Tra-DEE-tion!” As the opening number of Fiddler on the Roof starts, I can’t help but smile. The League of Christian Actors in Visalia is once again putting on their annual musical. For their 8th show, they are doing Fiddler on the Roof.
League of Christian Actors…Fiddler on the Roof. No, it doesn’t really make sense, but what do good actors do? They study and learn about their roles, getting ready to portray their characters as best as they can. And we have. Our director, the talented Elizabeth LaMar, conductor, and choreographers have been preparing us for the language, customs, and lifestyle of the Jewish people in the early twentieth century. They’ve worked with us to get rid of our 2011 ways, “party hands”, and most famously, our “San Joaquin Valley twang”, which explains why “tradition” is now “tra-dee-tion”.
As the ensemble files off for the first scene, we settle down “backstage”, quietly listening to the sounds that have become quite familiar to us: Golde (Joanne Cook) yelling at her husband Tevye (Rick Lotenero), their daughters singing in their beautiful voices (Tracy LaMar, Megan Wright, Haleigh Cook, Elexa Sierra, and Mikayla Hays), Tevye talking to himself or God, and the typical noises of a small village. When it’s our turn to join in with our talented leads, we gather into our stage families, ready to portray the Jewish people as best we can.
All our leads are talented, but Rick Lotenero, our Tevye, the main character, is truly amazing. With his strong voice, and acting skills, it’s just a shame he wasn’t born earlier to play Tevye in the original Broadway production. He’ll be onstage at rehearsal, working his magic, in full-blown “Tevye mode” and then all of a sudden, in his own softer, non-Tevye voice, ask politely if our conductor could go back, because he wants to do it again to get it just right. He, without a doubt, has shown the rest of us what it really means to “be in character”.
A Different Kind of Cast
The leaders of this production have worked nonstop with us to help make this play a success. But they can only do so much. It takes the work of the orchestra and the cast to make a show a success. I have never seen a more dedicated cast. They have been working until late in the evening to get down the steps and lines, until they can do it in their sleep. And on their one night off, as we got into the final weeks of practice? They wanted at least a vocal rehearsal, so they could still continue to better themselves. I am honored to be part of such a committed cast.
And it’s not just a devoted cast. It’s a family. True, we might all say that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, but it’s not just that. They care about each other. They lift each other up when they’re down, they help one another with lines and at the end of the day, they all join in to sing a big happy birthday to whomever has birthday in the cast. Those are the best versions of happy birthday I’ve ever heard!
We hope you’ll join us at the COS theatre this week! Show times are 7:00 p.m. Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25. 2:00 p.m. shows are on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Tickets are just $15 for senior citizens over 60 on Sunday. All proceeds benefit “Cliparts”, a new performing arts program at Christ Lutheran Church that concentrates on low-income and at-risk kids. See you there!