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48 years later, Trinity revives 'Fiddler on the Roof'

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Tevye's daughters sign about Yente finding them a match. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Trinity High School's 1971 production of "Fiddler on the Roof" was so special to the school that it inducted its entire cast into the Titan Hall of Fame in 2015. Now, 48 years after the original production, the musical will once again grace the school's stage with the assistance of that production's lead actor.

"The cast has benefited tremendously from the guidance and direction of Mr. Mitch Kuntz, who played the fiddler in the 1971 Trinity production. He has many fond memories of this show, bringing the students’ appreciation and awareness of the musical to another level," said Janel Schiff, director of the play.

Although Kuntz has volunteered with the theater for 15-20 years, he's waited to bring back "Fiddler on the Roof."

"When I was drafted into it as a freshman, I didn’t know anything about what this drama stuff was, but once I did that and we had such overwhelming response from audiences, it just stuck with me. … I have waited all this time to find just the right group of kids, the right voices, the right actors, the right musicians. To bring it back now, to be able to bring it back while I’m still here and able to help, is like an honor," he said.

Given the passage of decades, this production of "Fiddler" will be more advanced.

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"(In 1971) there were no microphones and only 16 lights on and off, so it was way different," Kuntz said. "We’re giving a heightened production here. We’re lucky to have our orchestra this year (that’s) led by Dr. (Brian) Holder, who’s on our staff. He’s got all music teachers as musicians. . . . We have computerized lighting, and we’ll have all the major characters that say something (have) wireless mics. We give our students college-level experience at this level, especially with our orchestra and things this year, and they deliver."

“Fiddler on the Roof” is set in Anatevka, Russia, in 1905 and tells the story of Tevye, a poor milkman and his wife Golde, who raise a family of five daughters. They try to instill them with traditional Jewish values amid social changes and growing anti-Semitism in czarist Russia.

Kuntz said the cast is learning how to accurately depict Jewish traditions.

"We even have a consultant who’s Jewish who is going to give us some insights on how to play the wedding scene because that’s pretty particular to that faith, and the Sabbath prayer so that we have the Sabbath dinner blessings and things correct," he said.

In preparation for the play, Schiff said, students were asked to reflect on their own traditions in the drama department, their school, their faith and their families.

"This group of students have learned a great deal about the importance of tradition in one’s culture," she said.

Trinity will present “Fiddler on the Roof” on Dec. 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Their production was produced by arrangement with Music Theatre International and will feature more than 80 students.

The musical, which debuted in 1964, is based on stories by Sholem Aleichem and has won nine Tony Awards. The music is by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein.

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Senior actor Eve Heupel, who plays Yente, said of the musical, "This play will touch your heart. It has many dramatic family moments, and you will be on the journey with each character as they face hardship."

Senior actor Cailiegh O'Dwyer, who plays Golde, said the play stands out "because of its ability to impact and touch the audience," and junior actor Sunshine Diem, who plays Chava, said the play is "unique in its ability to leave you in tears of both laughter and sorrow."

Kuntz said that everyone in Dickinson who knows about the musical should see it because "it's going to be great."

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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