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‘Fiddler’ revival set for Gwinn schools

March 18, 2012
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

GWINN - Ten years ago, the Gwinn High School put on one of its first big musical productions - "Fiddler on the Roof." This week, the district is revisiting that musical, with shows opening Thursday.

"It seemed like the right show for this group of kids," said Director Dave Dagenais.

The cast and crew of around 70 includes students from the fifth grade through high school attending the Gwinn Area Community Schools, with the show based on the 2004 Broadway revival of the production.

Article Photos

Top, playing one of three sisters who test their father’s strong traditions in the musical production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” is Hodel, played by Gwinn High School student Ellie Woodruff. Above left, violinist and Gwin High School student Ann Taylor plays the title character during the opening of the play. Above right, Kara Wixtrom, playing Tevye’s wife, Golde, found the part of the traditional and sometimes angry mother of five daughters to be a challenge. (Journal photos by Johanna Boyle)

Set in the early 1900s in czarist Russia, "Fiddler on the Roof" follows the story of Tevye, a village milkman, and his family of five daughters. Although their Jewish community is heavily rooted in traditions, the three oldest daughters all fight that tradition, from the eldest who asks to marry a poor tailor for love outside of the typical arranged marriage to the second who marries a Jewish man from outside the village to the third who marries a Russian soldier.

As his daughters grow to make their own choices, Tevye must also react as the local Russian authorities begin working to drive the Jews from their homes.

"It's a minimalist approach where we focus more on the story," Dagenais said. "It's a beautiful production. I have very strong singers right now. They fit their roles well."

The cast and crew began rehearsals in January, meeting four days a week to prepare for the show's run.

For students portraying the various characters on stage, the show is a challenging one.

"All I knew was it had to do with a bunch of daughters getting married," said Kara Wixtrom, 17, a senior student playing the role of Tevye's wife, Golde.

After getting to know the show, Wixtrom said it was a mix of fun and more serious moments that challenged the actors.

"It was hard for me to get into my character," Wixtrom said. "She loves her children, but she's angry."

One moment in the show she said was difficult to play is when Golde criticizes one of her daughters for reading, saying it wouldn't help her to secure a husband. An avid reader herself, Wixtrom said the character was often quite different from her own personality.

Even though the time period and circumstances portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof might seem far removed from today's society, Dagenais said the overall message of the show is still meaningful for today's audiences.

"The message behind Fiddler is so universal," he said, specifically the message of the importance of family and the impact traditions can have.

Wixtrom agreed.

"It's a really good show. It's going to be fantastic," she said.

The show opens Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Gwinn High School cafetorium, with additional shows on Friday and Saturday, as well as a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $4 for students and seniors, $6 for adults and are available at the high school office, the Modeltown Express, SIR Federal Credit Union, Snowbound Books and at the door prior to each show.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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