'Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.' expands youth theater experience

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Jul. 14, 2011
Sean Walton of Manchester, Katrina McGlynn of Columbia, Evan Gonzales of South Windsor, Abbey Renaud of Glastonbury and Selena Berard of Manchester are part of the Rascal Rep cast for 'Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.' to be performed on July 22 and 23 at Cheney Hall in Manchester.  Photos by Martha Marteney.
Sean Walton of Manchester, Katrina McGlynn of Columbia, Evan Gonzales of South Windsor, Abbey Renaud of Glastonbury and Selena Berard of Manchester are part of the Rascal Rep cast for 'Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.' to be performed on July 22 and 23 at Cheney Hall in Manchester. Photos by Martha Marteney.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is not a play usually performed by youth theater groups. Set in Tsarist Russia in 1905, the characters deal with serious issues, such as family values, the generation gap, religion and politics.  Jewish culture is reflected in the relationships among the characters, and in the music.

Rascal Rep, Little Theater of Manchester’s youth theater program, will be performing “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” on Friday, July 22, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 23, at 2 p.m. at Cheney Hall in Manchester. This is the 15th season for Rascal Rep. Last year, Rascal Rep performed “High School Musical 2.”

The young actors rehearse from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, for five weeks.  “It’s not really camp,” said 14-year-old Evan Gonzales, of South Windsor. “We focus on the play, and it’s really serious.” Gonzales plays Tevye, the father and lead character in the play. “I guess I’m like him,” said Gonzales of the role of loud and aggressive patriarch. “It kind of comes naturally.”

“I love being in the theater,” said Katrina McGlynn, of Columbia.  The 13-year-old is playing Tzeitel, the oldest of Tevye’s five daughters.  Much of the play deals with the marriage of Tzeitel. “My mom will be crying,” said McGlynn. 

The second oldest daughter, Hodel, is played by 12-year-old Abbey Renaud of Glastonbury. Adding to the political subtext of the musical, Hodel falls in love with a Bolshevik revolutionary. This is Renaud’s fifth year with Rascal Rep. “We have so much fun on stage,” said Renaud, “and I love acting.” For youngsters considering joining the fun next year, she added, “You’ll have the time of your life.”

A few of the male roles will be filled by girls, including both the Rabbi and his son.  Manchester resident Selena Berard, 13, plays Mendal, the Rabbi’s son.  “I picture him as very handsome and with money,” said Berard.  “I love to act all the time,” she said. 

“Motel is a very shy guy who stands up to the father [Tevye] to marry his daughter,” explained Sean Walton, 16, from Manchester. In learning to play the role of Motel, the poor tailor who loves Tzeitel, Walton said he also learned a lot about Jewish traditions.

For the third year, Manchester residents Jill Luberto and Tracy Funke are the co-directors of the Rascal Rep production.  In preparing the youngsters for the realistic portrayal of family life in a small village atmosphere, Luberto said, “We tried to get them [the actors] to communicate and connect as a family unit.” Each actor was responsible for creating a character biography, developing the role by envisioning the entirety of the person’s life. This was especially important, as many of the youngsters were not familiar with the musical, which was first staged for Broadway in 1964.

“It’s a really great production,” said McGlynn, “and will put a smile on your face.”

Tickets for the Rascal Rep’s July 22 and 23 production of “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” at Cheney Hall are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger, and can be order by phone at 860-647-9824.  Cheney Hall is located at 177 Hartford Road.  Tickets may also be purchased at the box office, which is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information, visit the website  cheneyhall.org.


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