From the moment the young actors and actresses danced on stage singing Tradition I knew that Aspire's production of Fiddler on the Roof was going to be something special. There was something in the cast's energy and professionalism that struck me immediately. Keep in mind, these are middle school students--roughly aged 12-14. They were incredible. I watched all five performances of Fiddler. (Confession time, my daughter was in it.) I felt their intensity every time they came on stage. I got chills every time I heard them sing Sabbath Prayer. I was amazed every time I saw the bottle dance. (No tricks, ten kids were really balancing bottles on their heads and DANCING!) I was touched every time I heard Far From the Home I Love. And I wanted to cry every time I watched the actors, portraying the Jews driven from their village, proudly raise their arms to the last strains of Tradition.
In short, I laughed, I cried--I was impressed.
The play itself is beautiful. In my opinion, Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best written poignant, funny, and entertaining plays ever put on Broadway. For that I give credit to Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerome Robbins--respectively original writers, composers, director and choreographer. Still, to put a production of this magnitude into the hands of 12-14 year-olds (and their fearless directors) and come up with the show they did is an amazing accomplishment. And Aspire has only been in existence for a year!
The leads and their understudies were incredible, but every single actor contributed their best. They knew their lines, they knew the dances, they were acting the whole time they were on stage, and they looked like they were having fun. There was so much energy and emotion put into all the scenes that I almost forgot that I was watching middle school students. (Except that most of the male leads were shorter than the female leads. And yes, the line "When did he grow to be so tall..." brought a laugh every single time.)
Watching the actors cry and celebrate together after the last performance I knew that they had done more than put on a great production. They had achieved what Ms. Traber had hoped for when she chose Fiddler on the Roof for Aspire's first musical--a sense of community and the beginnings of a wonderful new tradition.
Photos courtesy of David Wolf Photography