Preview: Fiddler on the Roof at the McCoy Center

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From the January 19, 2012 edition

If practice makes perfect, then John Preece’s take on Tevye should be flawless. When I spoke with the actor last week, he had completed his 1,835th performance as the main character in “Fiddler on the Roof” the night before.

Preece will get to add another tally mark after the touring production visits the McCoy Center for a sold-out show next Thursday. The bearded thespian said he doesn’t tire of singing classic songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” or playing one of the best-written roles in musical theater.

“It has great comedy and great sadness,” Preece said. “It’s fun to take the audience along on this emotional journey with you.”

Tevye is a tired, overworked milkman trying to maintain order in his Jewish family — he has five daughters — in early 1900s Russia. When his daughters overlook the tradition of arranged marriage and fall in love with men who weren’t chosen for them, he’s forced to reconsider his stance on religious customs.

“He’s driven to keep his traditions alive and keep his religion alive, and at the same time keep his family together,” Preece explained. “When the outside world starts influencing his little village, he has to be flexible enough to bend to keep the people in his family happy.”

Ultimately, “Fiddler” is a show about relationships, examining a man’s connections with his wife, his daughters, his neighbors and his God. There are likely many audience members who can identify with the characters — say, parents who aren’t too happy with their kid’s choice of mate.

“It’s still a timely piece,” Preece said. “This is not a cartoon put on stage or a show that was just made up. This is history; this is what happened and even what’s happening today.”

Carol Rosegg photo