TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central High School's traditional annual musical this year is all about 'Tradition!'
Students are staging "Fiddler on the Roof," where deeply rooted mores clash with a tide of modernity.
An energetic cast of 48 students bring the village and inhabitants of Anatevka to life. The iconic musical production, which also includes 40 musicians and crew members, will run for eight shows in November.
"Fiddler on the Roof" debuts Thursday, Nov. 8 and continues over the next two weekends, including Sunday matinees and Thursday evening discounts.
"It's more old-fashioned but there's humor in it for everybody," said David Stone, who portrays Tevye in the double-cast show.
The show's complex plot follows patriarch Tevye, his wife Golde, their three marriage-age daughters and the villagers at the dawn of the 20th century in the Jewish Pale of Tsarist Russia.
"The big challenge is finding the right emotion for each scene because it's different for each one," Stone said.
The veteran production team of musical director Tamara Grove, director Marilyn Tilley and choreographer Lisa Reehorst are recreating the excitement of a Broadway production.
"The show is unique, it's a real ensemble show (that) is powerfully emotional and humorous," said Tilley. "The music is beautiful, moving and fun. 'Fiddler on the Roof' has the potential to move an audience more than any other musical."
Reehorst has set multiple, full-cast numbers on the cast, using the dancing as an integral narrative component.
"What I think is unique about this particular musical, however, is that the dance scenes are necessary elements in moving the plot forward," said Reehorst. "The audience will experience excitement, joy, fear and sadness through movement and song."
The men's bottle dance during the wedding scene has been particularly challenging, with cast members rehearsing since early September. Dancers have mastered balancing a bottle on their heads during the number — no Velcro or magnets needed.
"Fiddler on the Roof" may be less dynamic and well-known than previous year's productions of "Grease" and "Oklahoma!" For those shows, students often knew all songs, dances and roles even before auditions began.
"The music is not as popular or familiar as the 'Grease' repertoire," said Grove. "However, the students adapt well to all genres because they are flexible and exposed to a variety throughout the academic year in choir."
Kaila Svafranski, who portrays Golde, was thrilled by the selection of "Fiddler" for her junior year's musical.
"It was one of my favorite shows, I first watched it on TV when I was 10," she said.
With a fiddler central to the production, the singers and dancers on stage are seamlessly integrated with the musicians accompanying the show.
The pit orchestra features both band and orchestra students from Central, who audition for the opportunity to participate.
"The pit orchestra is the nucleus of the operation," said Grove. "The music they play captures the essence of emotion in so many capacities.
These live student orchestral performances are compelling on their own, and enhance everything that is occurring on stage."
Although this year's cast is smaller than recent productions, a bevy of parent helpers have pitched in to present "Fiddler on the Roof." Tilley joked that the parents do everything except sing, dance and act.
Behind the scenes they make all the sets, props and costumes as well as run the box office, design publicity, feed hungry students and manage the house during shows.
"Parent volunteers are phenomenal," Tilley said. "It requires an amazing effort to produce a show like this and it wouldn't be possible without all the outstanding parents at Central."