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Published: Thursday, 7/28/2005

Croswell presenting a classic of musical theater


It takes place in a different century and a different country, but Fiddler on the Roof is timeless, says Julianne Dolan of Adrian, who is directing the production as the Croswell Opera House's summer season finale.

The show opens tomorrow in the Adrian theater, where it runs through Aug. 7.

Based on the stories by Sholom Aleichem, Fiddler on the Room centers around Tevye, a dairyman in tsarist Russia who has no material wealth but is rich in family, faith, and humor. He has several daughters, and it is his duty to arrange for them to marry well.

The daughters, however, have different ideas.

"It doesn't matter where you are in your life, there's something about Fiddler that speaks to you," Dolan says.

"Tevye wanted his girls to be knowledgeable and well-read, so is he really surprised at the decisions they make? That's what's so much fun [about this show], the 'Aha' moment."

Dolan makes it clear that although she is the director, Fiddler on the Roof is a truly a cooperative effort with music director Herbert Marshall of Adrian and choreographer Joe Dennehy of Toledo.

Marshall teaches at the University of Michigan in the music department. Fiddler is his first show at the Croswell, Dolan says, and he has risen to the challenge.

"He teaches, so he knows how to get his ideas across to the cast and the musicians," Dolan says.

Dennehy has starred in and choreographed many productions at the Croswell, including its 2001 production of Singin' in the Rain, in which he played Cosmo Brown, the character who dances up a wall.

"It's a joy to work with people who are so talented and so giving," Dolan says. "It feels a little weird, though. In previous shows, I've had to hold the vision for everyone. In this one, we all hold the same vision; we're all working toward the same goal."

She is equally happy with her cast, especially Steve Hillard of Northville, Mich., and his wife, Jay, as Tevye and the matchmaker, Golde.

Steve Hillard had retired after many years in community theater and said he was never going to do theater again, Dolan says. Tevye was the role that caused him to change his mind.

"There was no question; he was right from the start. He's welcoming and able to embrace the cast."

Jay Hillard fills an unusual need for Fiddler on the Roof, Dolan says.

"Yente flies in this show," she says, and Jay did Peter Pan twice for the Croswell, so she has a good deal of experience with the technical demands of the role.

Joyce Cameron of Adrian plays Tevye's wife, Golde; Jean Orlowski of Adrian, Lindsey Hunt of Ann Arbor, and Ashley Travis of Tecumseh, Mich., are daughters Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava; and Seth Shaffer of Wauseon and James Swendson of Palmyra, Mich., portray the suitors Motel and Perchik.

Others in the large cast represent Toledo as well as the Michigan cities of Blissfield, Camden, Clinton, Hillsdale, Jackson, Morenci, Petersburg, and Waterford.

The musical by Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock, and Sheldon Harnick was originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It opened on Broadway in 1964, starring Zero Mostel as Tevye, and ran for 3,242 performances. Notable songs from the show include "Sunrise, Sunset," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," and "Tradition."

Although the show is more than four decades old, it's not showing its age, Dolan says. "These are universal conflicts; they span different philosophies, faiths, lifestyles, and ages."

"Fiddler on the Roof" opens tomorrow and runs through Aug. 7 in the Croswell Opera House, 129 East Maumee St., Adrian. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, and tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. Information: 517-264-7469.

Toledo's New Works Writers Series, directed by Imelda Hunt, is presenting Dutchman by LeRoi Jones tomorrow during a wine-tasting event in the Blueprint nightclub.

Written in 1963, Dutchman was very controversial in its time, Hunt says. "It spoke of the tensions of the Civil Rights movement," and it demonstrated the struggle faced by African Americans in trying to reconcile their African heritage with white culture.

Set on a subway, Dutchman is the tale of an encounter between a white woman and a black intellectual. She is intrigued by him, and as the subway moves on, the pair alternate between seduction and hatred, bringing long-suppressed hostility to the surface.

Grant Walker and Tiffany Taylor portray the couple; Tokaro Warren in the narrator.

The performance initially was to be a staged reading, but Hunt says the intense script was no obstacle for her cast - "Tiffany and Grant are explosive together onstage" - and the show has become a true play, albeit one with sparse staging.

"Dutchman," a production of the New Works Writers Series, is scheduled at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Blueprint, 1919 Monroe St. Tickets are $7 and include a wine-tasting and hors d'oeuvres. Information: 241-9182.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.

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