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Like Oak Theatre Company brings one of the all-time great musicals to a local stage


Published:   |   Updated: October 11, 2013 at 01:35 PM

"Tradition, tradition!"

Those are some of the most remembered lyrics from the opening song of the musical play, "Fiddler on the Roof."

Based on a collection of short stories written by Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem that were published in the 1890s, the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" opened in 1964 on Broadway. It was the first play on Broadway to exceed 3,000 performances and became the longest running musical at the time.

It held this distinction for almost 10 years, is still the 16th longest running production on Broadway. The play won numerous Tony awards in 1965, including "Best Musical" and "Best Choreography." Later in 1972, the musical was awarded a special Tony award for "Longest-running Musical in Broadway History."

"Fiddler on the Roof" revealed serious social and economic issues, such as religious persecution and anti-Semitism, poverty and the struggles of the working poor, and the challenges to hold onto one's beliefs and convictions even in the midst of hostile change and a chaotic environment, making it still very popular today because many people can still relate to those issues.

The musical also enjoyed a 1971 movie adaptation, which won three Academy Awards, and has since been re-aired on television many times.

Set in a small village in tsarist Russia in 1905, the play's story centers on a hard-working yet poor milkman named Tevye and his family of five daughters. Tevye struggles with preserving the traditions of arranged marriage when his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, begs him to not force her to marry the middle-aged butcher that was chosen for her by the village matchmaker, but rather let her marry her beloved, a poor tailor.

Tevye must decide between his daughter's happiness and the traditions that he has always known. Meanwhile, the political and religious climate is changing in Russia, threatening to destroy all that Tevye has ever known.

Members of the local Live Oak Theatre Company will perform "Fiddler on the Roof" on Oct. 18-19 and Oct. 25-27 at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, located at 200 Mount Fair Ave., in Brooksville.

All performances are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., except for the Sunday matinee performance Oct. 27 at 3 p.m.

Vince Vanni, director of Live Oak Theatre Company's "Fiddler on the Roof" production and who also will play the lead role of Tevye, said: "We will provide the audience with a really enjoyable experience. I like to use the word 'experience' because this is the type of show that you don't just sit back and enjoy, but you experience the emotions that go back and forth, from the joy to the sorrow to the tension and so on. In the end, people leave saying, 'Wow, this was a fun experience.'

"This is a community group whose goal is to come together and provide the audience with an interactive experience. We like to describe ourselves as a local repertory theater group committed to providing family-friendly entertainment to the community and committed to providing a positive experience for kids to work alongside adults as mentors."

Adult tickets to the shows are $18 each or $35 per couple. Students, ages 13 and under, are $5 with the purchase of an adult ticket. All tickets include coffee or tea with dessert.

This Live Oak Theatre Company production is not your typical performance of "Fiddler on the Roof," Vanni said.

Due to the close proximity of the audience, it will be an "intense experience" and not just a performance.

"This particular performance is going to be unique to the are," Vanni said. "The audience is going to be on three sides of us, seated at tables, and the dance floor stage will be smack in the middle of all of that. It is going to be multi-dimensional, more like a sculpture than a picture.

"The cast members are being trained to look at all sides so that everyone takes in the show and everyone feels a part of it."

Seating will be limited to 200 seats per performance to ensure that all guests have a comfortable line of sight to the view the entire stage.

Doors open 30 minutes before each scheduled show time.

Randi Olsen is the artistic and musical director of the Live Oak Theatre Company production, with Keith Meccia as assistant director of the play.

"I would like to emphasize that it would have been impossible to direct the show and play Tevye, who appears in 75 percent of the scenes, without the collaboration of Randi Olsen, who has served as music director and artistic director, and Keith Meccia who has served as assistant director," Vanni said.

"The direction has been a true collaboration between the three of us. In fact, the cast even commented on how well we work together. There was no confusion about taking direction from the three of us. We are always on the same page.

"Keith is a former acting student of mine and a current voice student of Randi. Randi is a protege and we have been collaborating on projects for 15 years. We are all on the same page."

Special thanks went to all of the actors and actresses in this production, including Vanni as Tevye the dairyman; Myndee Fleury Washington as Golde, the wife of Tevye; Jason McMahan as Motel, the poor tailor; Nicole Natoli as Tzeitel, Esprit Tafelski as Hodel and Monalisa Patterson as Chava, Tevye's three eldest daughters; Jesse Balogh as Perchik, a Bolshevik revolutionary who falls in love with Hodel; Kody Hennequinn as Fyedka, a young Christian man who elopes with Chava; and Carolina Coulon as Yente, the village matchmaker.

For more ticket information, contact the box office at (352) 593-0027, email liveoakboxoffice@gmail.com or visit www.LiveOakTheatre.org and the Live Oak Theatre's Facebook page.

Hernando Today correspondent Heather Francis can be reached at toheatherfrancis@gmail.com.

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