Judge ready to Fiddle

Fath­er Judge stu­dent Matt Clark gets in­to char­ac­ter dur­ing a Fid­dler on the Roof re­hears­al. KEV­IN COOK / FOR THE TIMES


The Fath­er Judge High School theat­er arts club hasn’t pro­duced Fid­dler on the Roof since 1976, and dir­ect­or Tom Dig­nam knows the chal­lenges.

The show re­quires a large and tal­en­ted cast, along with an elab­or­ate set.

Still, the per­formers be­lieve the show is com­ing along well.

“I’m really ex­cited,” said seni­or Matt Clark, who plays Per­chik and Con­stable. “At first, I was iffy about something as deep as Fid­dler. It can be a risk, but it can be really good. What we have is go­ing to be great. It’s turn­ing out really well.”

Ca­sey Bern­er, a St. Hubert seni­or who plays Grandma Tzeitel, is per­form­ing in her fourth Judge show.

“It’s really hard to beat God­spell, but we might beat God­spell,” she said of last spring’s mu­sic­al. “People loved it, but I think this is turn­ing out bet­ter.”

There will be six pro­duc­tions of Fid­dler, with even­ing shows on March 16-17 and 23-24 and Sunday mat­in­ees on March 18 and 25.

Set in Rus­sia in 1905, Fid­dler is the story of Tevye, a poor milk­man who at­tempts to main­tain fam­ily and Jew­ish tra­di­tions in a chan­ging world. He and his wife, Golde, have five daugh­ters.

The show opened on Broad­way in 1964 and won a Tony Award for Best Mu­sic­al. A 1971 film was nom­in­ated for an Academy Award for Best Pic­ture.

Dig­nam, whose broth­er John was in Fid­dler 36 years ago at Judge, is in his fourth year as dir­ect­or of shows at the high school.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult in terms of pro­duc­tion, but it’s a great show for high school,” he said. “There are a lot of en­semble num­bers. You get a lot of people in­volved. There are a lot of large, fe­male roles. Tevya car­ries the show, but they spread the wealth.”

The crew is made up of 25 Judge stu­dents, in­clud­ing a few who also ap­pear on stage.

“They learn the tech­nic­al as­pect of it, too,” said Dig­nam, a 1981 Judge gradu­ate. “The crew and cast go hand in hand.”

The cast con­sists of boys from Fath­er Judge and girls from St. Hubert, Arch­bish­op Ry­an, Naz­areth Academy and Little Flower.

Megan Guy, a Little Flower seni­or, plays Golde. Her dad, Wil­li­am, played Tevya when he at­ten­ded Ry­an.

“This is one of my fa­vor­ite shows. I really like the mu­sic and the storyline,” she said.

This is the first time in memory that she and her fel­low Little Flower stu­dents have had prom­in­ent roles in the Judge shows.

“Every­one wel­comed us,” she said.

St. Hubert has tra­di­tion­ally sup­plied most of the fe­male tal­ent for Judge shows, and some of the girls were emo­tion­al when an Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia blue rib­bon com­mis­sion re­com­men­ded in Janu­ary that the school close be­cause of de­clin­ing en­roll­ment and a budget de­fi­cit.

The Judge guys and the girls from the oth­er schools shared in their pain.

“It was amaz­ing. Every­one was sup­port­ive,” Bern­er said.

Of course, that drama had a happy end­ing, as an out­pour­ing of fin­an­cial com­mit­ments helped St. Hubert and four oth­er high schools on the chop­ping block re­main open.

As for Fid­dler, Dig­nam said all of the young people who are in­volved learn so­cial skills, and those on stage im­prove their pub­lic speak­ing abil­it­ies.

The show wouldn’t be a suc­cess without an out­stand­ing lead act­or, and Judge seni­or Shawn Gies ably fills the role of Tevya. He’s ex­per­i­enced, hav­ing played Je­sus in God­spell and hav­ing lead roles in The Des­per­ate Hours, The Rules of Com­edy and Do Black Pat­ent Leath­er Shoes Really Re­flect Up?

“Shawn has sixty per­cent of the lines, and after the first month, he had all the lines mem­or­ized,” Dig­nam said. “That’s half the battle.”

Gies, who’ll study theat­er on a par­tial schol­ar­ship to De­Sales Uni­versity, re­calls go­ing on a drive with his mom about eight years ago and grabbing a com­pact disc out of her col­lec­tion for the ride. It was the Fid­dler soundtrack, and young Shawn fell in love with the mu­sic.

“This is my fa­vor­ite show. I know it from top to bot­tom,” he said. “It’s one of the hard­est roles I’ve ever done, but I know the char­ac­ter.”

Gies has seen the show at the Wal­nut Street Theatre and dur­ing a re­cent na­tion­al tour in New Brun­swick, N.J. He in­vites the com­munity to come to the Judge pro­duc­tion to see the loc­al take on a tight-knit Rus­si­an fam­ily and com­munity from a cen­tury ago.

“There’s a sense of unity in Fid­dler,” he said. “Any­time Fid­dler comes to town, I see it.” ••



Get up on the roof . . .

Fath­er Judge will of­fer six pro­duc­tions of Fid­dler on the Roof.

Show times are 7 p.m. on March 16-17 and 23-24 and 2 p.m. on March 18 and 25.

The show takes place in the aud­it­or­i­um of the school, at 3301 Solly Ave. Tick­ets cost $10 in ad­vance or $12 at the door.

For tick­et in­form­a­tion, call Anne Mar­ie at the school at 215-338-9494, Ext. 1128 or Tom Dig­nam at 267-808-3671.

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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