The world is changing, it's always changing. But in the little village of Anatevka, it always stays the same -- at least when it comes to the popularity of the musical "Fiddler on the Roof."
The enduring story about a poor Jewish milkman, his wife Golde and their five daughters opens this week at the Terrace Plaza Playhouse in Washington Terrace.
"It's one of our most popular productions," said Layton resident Susan Wilhelm, who is directing the show. The production stars her husband, Don Wilhelm, as Tevye, who has performed the role previously at the Playhouse.
Wilhelm's husband is so familiar with the iconic role, she said, that he requires very little direction. Her cast also includes a strong ensemble and two talented actresses double-cast as Golde; Karen Brookens of Ogden and Carolyn J. Stevens of South Ogden play the part of the long-suffering wife.
Rich in historical and cultural detail, "Fiddler on the Roof" has touched audiences around the world with its humor, warmth and honesty, Wilhelm said. Its universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion. The story also sends a strong message about the importance of community, Wilhelm said.
The musical's famous score, by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, features some of the most enduring showtunes of all time, including "If I Were a Rich Man," "Sunrise, Sunset," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and "Tradition," which speaks to the heart of the piece.
Audiences can expect to be touched with moments of laughter and light, as well as sorrow and loss. The story takes place at the turn of the 20th century in the village of Anatevka in Czarist Russia, where societal changes and growing anti-Semitism is threatening the old way of life. In the face of those changes, Tevye is trying to instill in his daughters the traditions of his tightknit Jewish community.
"Sometimes those changes aren't for the best, but he tries to help them," Wilhelm said.
The popularity of "Fiddler" comes from its honest look at the complicated relationship between parent and child and husband and wife. Tevye is capable of great tenderness toward his daughters and bends his point of view when he realizes their happiness is at stake. However, he takes a rather tough stance when one daughter strays too far from what he sees as acceptable social norms.
"The relationships between husbands and wives and parents and children are always going to be there," Wilhelm said. "The heartbreaks and the joy that families experience are never going to get old."
Through it all, Tevye emerges as an optimistic character who faces and ultimately embraces the challenges in his path.
"He reminds me of my own dad, although he didn't burst into song," Wilhelm said with a laugh.