“To Life, To Life, L’Chaim!”
Everyone has their favorite “Fiddler on the Roof” songs. But there are other Fiddler songs that never made it to the stage or screen. Hazzan Jeremy Stein of Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid discovered these songs and is presenting them in a unique version of the beloved musical.
After hearing an NPR interview with lyricist Sheldon Harnick discussing the cut songs, Stein was compelled to take on this project. “I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if we put on a concert featuring this music interspersed with the Fiddler classics we know and love?”
But Stein knew he couldn’t do Fiddler without Tevye and Golda and there was no budget to fly performers in from New York. Stein mentioned his dilemma to congregant Jeff Gingold who said, “I have the perfect Tevye and Golda for you.” Gingold’s longtime friends Susan and Andrew Varela are Broadway veterans who live in Muskego with their fourteen-year-old son, Oscar. Stein says, “I was blown away when I read their credentials and overjoyed when they happily signed on. They’re both amazingly talented and also a pleasure to work with.”
This isn’t the Varelas’ first visit to Anatevka. Susan played Yenta and Fruma Sarah in a high school production in Greendale. She later played oldest daughter Tzeitel in a professional production. “The fact that I played the daughter and now I’m playing the mother either makes me really old or proves that I have a nice long career,” Susan said.
Andrew appeared in two Fiddler productions in New Jersey in the late ‘80s. “I played the Russian soldier that sings the super high note and beats up the Jews at the wedding,” he said.
Andrew is excited to bring the iconic role “to life” at the synagogue. He said “if you count the best male musical roles there’s Jean Valjean from “Les Miserables,” Tony from “West Side Story,” the Pirate King from “Pirates of Penzance” and of course, Tevye. It’s a challenge for both your performing ability and your stamina.”
“Discovering new music from a classic is such a treat,” said Susan. “There’s a song Golda sings with her daughters as they’re preparing for the Sabbath. It was the original opening of the show.”
Performing in a synagogue is nothing new for Andrew. “In college I sang at a synagogue in New Jersey for the High Holy Days. I sang in Hebrew and fasted on Yom Kippur.” But donning the iconic milkman’s cap for this show will be a first for the actor who received rave reviews playing the Pirate King in a recent Skylight Music Theater production of “Pirates of Penzance.” “I’m 48 and it’s very exciting as an actor to bring my life experience to the role of Tevye that’s about a man aging and changing,” Andrew said.
After the Milwaukee audience sees “Fiddler: The Untold Tradition,” the songs “We’ve Never Missed a Sabbath Yet,” “What a Life” and “A Butcher’s Soul” might very well get added to that list of Fiddler favorites.
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How to go
WHAT: Fiddler: The Untold Tradition
WHERE: Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid, 6880 N. Green Bay Ave., Glendale
WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m.
COST: $18 per person
For tickets call CBINT: 414-352-7310