August 16, 1999
Youth Theatre Northwest's season opener, Fiddler on the Roof, is a fitting play to inaugurate the organization's newly-renovated main stage at the former North Mercer Junior High School.
One of the most beloved musicals of the 20th century, Fiddler deals with the theme of change amid a culture steeped in tradition. It is a show that invites people to think about their values and encourages them to celebrate life.
Youth Theatre Northwest is also in a state of great change with its remodeled space and facility improvements, yet its mission remains the same: to support area youth through dramatic arts education and theatrical productions. In keeping with tradition, director Nanette Rohde and her cast of thirty-eight children chose to keep the script and production of "Fiddler" unchanged from the original stage version.
"We've made it a point to remain true to the culture and the script," says sixteen-year-old Megan Gilkey (Rifka). "You don't have to change this play or adapt it. It's still about Tevye the milkman in Russia, and he still chooses tradition, even if it costs him his daughter. And just like the story, we're choosing tradition in how we perform it. We're excited about that!"
The audience on opening night shared in the actors' excitement and were enthusiastic in their praise of the show. The talented ensemble of children, ages eight through sixteen, perform their roles with great pathos and apparent understanding of the situation in which their characters find themselves. There is a level of maturity in these actors that is not often found in youth theatre today.
Thirteen-year-old Jennifer Inglin (Yente) sees the musical as relevant to today. She says, "Tevye's family and friends are being forced to leave their homes, just like the Ethnic Albanians. We (the cast) talk about that, and I think the audience and their parents should talk about it, too. If we don't, history will just be repeated."
It is the timeless music which endears Fiddler to all generations and the young actors and musicians in the show do a commendable job with the often-complex tunes. Alex Mansoori makes a perfect Tevye with all the expressions, gestures, and nuances necessary for his character to be credible. He has a strong stage presence and displays humor and integrity while showing his internal struggle to maintain balance in the changing and unstable world of Tsarist Russia in 1905. Tevye's wife Golde, played by Kim Douthit is an equal match for Mansoori, and they work well together as a bickering married couple whose love for one another and their family sustains them.
The show runs through Aug. 22. For ticket information, call 206-232-2202.