by Rachel Martin
Speak loud and be understood. These straightforward directions could be given in a number of life’s occasions. They are simple, yet significant.
Perhaps that is why Fran Sillau, Director of the JCC Musical Theater Community Acting Group, tells the cast to do just that before they perform each show. “I also tell the cast to do the play as if the audience has never seen it before,” he said. “I want them to perform as if it were the first time, every time.”
JCC Cultural Arts Director Esther Katz agreed with Sillau, especially in the case of the upcoming show, Fidder on the Roof Junior. “This is particularly true with Fiddler, since so many audience members are familiar with the story,” Katz said.
Katz mentioned that the audience should keep in mind it is a junior version. “Some parts may be cut out because it’s designed to be interesting for a younger audience,” she said. “The publishers of the show made these calls; we did not make decisions of what to cut. Even our music director is sad for some songs that were cut in half or cut out. It tells the complete story while keeping it short enough for a young audience to enjoy the show.”
Sillau also noted that the cast is telling the story their way. “It’s not the movie or the Broadway show,” he said. “It will still be the Fiddler story, just Fiddler our way.”
Improvisations are a necessity in theater, but authenticity will not be sacrificed. “We rented costumes that came with tzitzit already, but they had fringe all the way across the bottom,” Katz said. “So, I’m going to sew it on just the four corners instead.”
The cast is ahead of schedule in terms of practicing onstage with set pieces. Usually, this doesn’t happen until tech week, much closer to the date of the performance. The Fiddler cast began to practice with the set nearly two months before the performance.
For this show, much of the set pieces are staying onstage throughout, in order for the background to look filled.
There are piles of furniture and props on either side of the stage. “The cast was a little surprised that all the pieces were staying during each scene,” Katz said. “It’s a big difference, even for the more experienced actors, to keep character while moving instead of dropping that persona and just being yourself in black clothing.”
Sillau said the cast ‘effortlessly transitioned’ to putting all of the show’s pieces together. “We’ve now moved from just pieces to the whole puzzle coming together,” he concluded.
Performances will be Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 4 p.m. Tickets are expected to sell fast. They are on sale now, and may be purchased from Esther Katz, Jessica Reed, or by calling the Registrar, Laura Wine, at 402.334.6419.