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‘Fiddler on the Roof’ national tour coming to Williamsport

The theatrical masterpiece “Fiddler on the Roof” will bring its timeless celebration of life to the Community Arts Center in Williamsport on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m.

The national tour is based on the Tony-nominated 2015 revival and has earned rave reviews. The New York Times calls it “Electrifying! A superb new production.” New York Magazine refers to it as “Entirely fresh, funny and gorgeous!” And The Associated Press hails it as “A remarkable achievement.”

"Fiddler on the Roof"The original Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof” premiered in 1964. The show won 10 Tony Awards, including a special Tony for becoming the longest-running Broadway musical of all time. It held that record for 10 years until surpassed by “Grease.” In addition to several Broadway revivals, “Fiddler on the Roof” inspired a 1971 Oscar-winning film adaptation.

The musical tells the story of Tevye, a Jewish milkman and father of five daughters, who struggles to honor tradition amid change and anti-Jewish sentiment in early 1900s Russia. The production features Broadway classics “Tradition;” “If I Were a Rich Man;” “Sunrise, Sunset;” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker;” and “To Life.”

Ticket information is available at the CAC website or by calling the box office at 570-326-2424.

Below, Easton native Carlye Messman, a member of the ensemble, discusses her background and what the audience can expect on Dec. 17.

Carlye MessmanYou grew up in Easton and appeared in main stage productions at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, the oldest theater in the nation. What does it mean for you to return to your Pennsylvania roots as part of the national tour?
It’s surreal. The fact that I get to come back to Pennsylvania and do this, I don’t even know if there are words. Being able to share with people who might be inspired to move toward the direction of the performing arts is really special.

This is your first national tour. Has the experience lived up to your expectations?
If I had any expectations, this experience has exceeded them. Getting to perform every day, that’s not always the case for us as actors. We’re spending a lot of time auditioning or waiting for the next gig to come around, so I didn’t realize how amazing it would be to perform the same show every single day.

What inspired you to pursue acting?
My little sister will never let me forget that she was into theater before me. She was going to a performing arts summer camp at the State Theatre in Easton, and I went with her. I came home the first day and said to my parents, “I can do this every single day for the rest of my life. I know I can.” From that point on, I did the school play. I did one community theater musical that summer. I went to my director my senior year before college auditions started and said, “I need you to be forward with me. I think I really want to do this, but I need to know if I can do this.” He was like, “Do it. You can. Just go for it.” When I was able to go to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, I never looked back.

Why do you think “Fiddler on the Roof” has such lasting appeal? The world is much different than when it premiered on Broadway in 1964.
It is so special because there are so many musicals from that golden age that don’t necessarily carry to 2019. I think what “Fiddler on the Roof” has is an incredible story that’s about family. It’s about relationships between fathers and daughters and husbands and wives. It’s about community and having to balance what you’ve always known and your faith with time evolving. And I think no matter where you are in time and no matter where you are in the world and what your circumstances are, there is always a connection to that.

How can today’s audience benefit from the overall message of the musical?
You see this man, our Tevye, and watch what he goes through. He is so true to his faith. That is everything he’s known for his entire life. And then you have his daughters. It’s also a women’s empowerment story because his young daughters are taking a stand for themselves. “I love this man, and my happiness should be more important than anything else.” Anyone who is going through any type of similar struggle, to watch a man on stage just standing there and having these conversations back and forth with himself and trying to work it out, I think they can benefit because it humanizes that conflict. It gives them an extra thing to think about if they are put in that situation.

For people who have seen it on Broadway or watched the Oscar-winning movie version, why should they make the effort on Dec. 17 to experience “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Community Arts Center? How will this be a fresh experience for them?
It’s completely refreshing with the new direction that (Tony-winning director) Bartlett Sher gave the story. It reads to a contemporary audience. Also, everyone knows the original choreography by Jerome Robbins. He’s a genius. We have a fresh, modern update on the choreography by an Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter. It’s very earthy. It’s very grounded. It’s very exciting. And I think that really responds with audiences and gets them into the show. It’s three hours long, which is a long time to be sitting there, and they have done a great job of keeping it moving and keeping it interesting from scene to scene.

Yehezkel Lazarov’s portrayal of central character Tevye has been called “different than the norm.” How does his portrayal vary from the actors who previously played that role?
He is extremely special to our production. He’s an Israeli stage and screen actor and so completely authentic. I think you really feel that in the language. Not only that, he’s truly a family man. He has three daughters of his own. Only two off from Tevye! He grew up with those Jewish traditions. A lot of them. He is completely immersed and has so much authentic knowledge and experience with our entire story, which 100% adds to the freshness of the production.

As a member of the ensemble, you have the honor of singing many classics. Can you describe the feeling of being on stage and helping to bring to life one of the most renowned musicals?
Right before we started this year’s tour, the “Fiddler on the Roof” documentary came out, so a bunch of us went to see it. It covered the entire span of “Fiddler” history and the fact that, ever since its opening in 1964, it’s been performed somewhere in the world every single day at least once. That blew my mind! To be a small part of that entire history and legacy is extremely special. It’s extremely humbling. Getting to see all these incredible theaters across the country and these audiences that are so responsive and to know that they are being affected by the story, there really aren’t words. It’s beyond anything that I could have ever anticipated for myself.

What’s next for you?
One of the biggest things my graduation speaker said when I graduated college was the worst thing you can do is plan for yourself in this industry because it’s never going to turn out the way you think it is. It’s a hard thing to grasp sometimes. I am excited to get back to New York after the tour and hit the ground running with the new experiences that I have. And take those experiences with me to the audition room and to the next job. The dream is to be able to perform every day. I’ll keep working toward that.

The Community Arts Center is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania College of Technology. It is one of the top performing arts venues on the East Coast. Since its reopening in 1993, approximately 1.5 million guests have enjoyed over 1,000 productions.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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