When searching through the old book of musicals for this year’s spring show, the issues Fiddler on the Roof touches on were too on point to overlook, said Oak Bay High history teacher Tim Bradshaw.
Oak Bay High’s theatre and music students are performing the classic 1960s musical, with its spirited choreography and its timeless themes, starting Friday night in the Dave Dunnet Theatre.
“The social message of antisemitism that Fiddler looks at is pretty deep, what with the issue of racism that’s flying around right now,” said Bradshaw, who is leading the show’s costume and design. “It comes with a powerful message that resonates in the now.”
The show will closely follow the original score and script by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein.
Set somewhere in a Jewish town of early 1900s Russia, it centres on Tevye (played by Grade 12 student Chase Ward) the modest milkman and his wife, Golde (played by Grade 12 student Sophie McGrath) and their five daughters, three of which marry in the show.
If it seems like another world, it is. Bradshaw invited a Rabbi who visited the cast and spent time explaining what the social climate was like growing up in the Baltic region Pale of Settlement and persecution that Jewish people faced.
The show reunites Bradshaw with director and choreographer Heather Day Jeliazkov (her third time directing Fiddler) and musical director Steve Price, who staged the musical Mary Poppins with Oak Bay High students in 2019.
“We are really lucky to have the whole community contribute,” Bradshaw noted. “We’ve got costumes from Langham Court Theatre, from the Canadian College of Performing Arts, and even Party Crashers, who people might not realize have very helpful advice and a passion for costumes.”
And what goes around comes around, Bradshaw said. For instance, Glenlyon Norfolk is borrowing Oak Bay’s Mary Poppins’ costumes for their upcoming show. And last year, Oak Bay borrowed Spectrum’s Mary Poppins costumes.
“The Oak Bay community, and the theatre community really chip in and makes this happen,” Bradshaw said.
The show also gives the hungry, talented actors a range of opportunities to put their energy into a musical full of dynamic dance routines and over-the-top vocal and gesturing tropes that come expected with Fiddler on the Roof.
Altogether, the show features almost 90 students with the symphony, crew, builders, costumes and actors.
“And we can’t overlook the parents helping feed the kids during long rehearsals, parents who helped build the set pieces, such as the giant milk cart for Tevye, or those who are ensuring family with mobility problems will have access to seats,” Bradshaw said. “So many people are so helpful.”
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. for the Feb. 28, and 29, March 4 to 7, with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 1.