Tevye talks to God often as he navigates life as a Jew living in Russia during the Communist takeover at the turn of the 20th century in the popular musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Darrell Drullinger directs the popular musical and Tim Vanderheiden is cast in the lead role for the production that opens Friday at the North Platte Community Playhouse. The Playhouse moved its 2020 scheduled shows into 2021 after having to cancel last year’s season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was heartbreaking — does this mean we’re never going to get to do it?” Drullinger recalled.
The good news is the show will go on and the story of Tevye is one that resonates with many folks, Drullinger said.
“Tevye is your typical father,” Drullinger said. “He has five daughters, which is a lot, especially in the culture back then when you had to get the oldest one married first, then go on down the line.”
The story of people being forced to leave their village, Drullinger said, is similar to what is seen in today’s news as people are being forced to flee Afghanistan.
“We talked about it at rehearsal one night,” Drullinger said. “What (the Jews) went through, people today are going through and it’s not just a made-up story, it’s really part of life.”
Drullinger pointed out one line in the show.
“In one place, the rabbi’s son says, ‘We’ve long watched for the Messiah; wouldn’t this be a good time for him to come?’” Drullinger said. “And the rabbi said, ‘Yes, but in the meantime we’ll have to watch for him someplace else.’”
A number of behind-the-scenes stories make the Playhouse version unique.
“Thirty-one years ago, Brandon Baxter’s grandfather Neal Baxter played Tevye,” Drullinger said. “Brandon plays Mendel, and at one of our early rehearsals, he brought in a beautiful oil painting that Patsy Smith did of Neal dressed up as Tevye.”
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A sewing machine has a pivotal role in the musical for Motel, a poor tailor and the son-in-law of Tevye, finally gets one for his work.
“The sewing-machine story is kind of fun,” Drullinger said. “We had one we were borrowing from an antique store, and when it was delivered, it was electric, it wasn’t the old pedal one that we needed.”
He said he remembered that his sister had one in her garage.
“I called to see if I could borrow it and she said sure,” Drullinger said. “As we’re loading it, she said, ‘You know this was Great-Grandma’s.’”
He said he had no idea and thought it was his mom’s.
“It was my great-grandmother’s and my grandmother had bought it for her with her very first paycheck,” Drullinger said. “My grandmother was born in 1883, so I’m guessing that it was around early 1900s.”
Another prop that has historic roots is a quilt.
“The story is that it came to Nebraska in a covered wagon,” Drullinger said. “From the condition of it, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s very old.”
Drullinger said the quilt has many different materials.
“It’s not like quilts today where everything is matching,” Drullinger said. “It’s leftover pieces of what they had, whether it was dresses or pieces of whatever the lady was sewing. They used every scrap of material.”
Performances are this Friday through Sunday and Oct. 1-3 with Friday and Saturday shows starting at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online at northplattecommunityplayhouse.com.