BWW Blog: Welcome Back Jesse Swimm of Goodspeed Musical's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
"Who Day and Night Must Scramble For A Living.....Tradition!!!"
Those words never rang more true than they have for the past 4 1/2 weeks.
Welcome to Anatevka and the Goodspeed Opera House's 50th Anniversary production of "Fiddler on the Roof". Back in February I auditioned for this production in NYC along with a few hundred of my peers to land one of only 27 parts in the cast. I had worked at Goodspeed about 7 years ago in a production of "High Button Shoes" and getting to go back up to East Haddam,Conn., I knew, was going to be such a privilege for me. For those of you who don't know Goodspeed Musicals is one of the premiere regional theatres in the country. There is so much history up there. Some of the greatest musicals of our time started there..."Annie", "Man of La Mancha", "Shenandoah"...the list goes on and on. Aside from that (and the two Tony Awards for excellence in theatre that they have won) it is one of the most breathtaking theatres in the country. It is something out of an old movie.
The charm of East Haddam and that of the Goodspeed staff is immeasurable. With all this in mind I knew that my time up at Goodspeed would be spectacular.
Day one of rehearsal is always one of the most exciting. You get your script, you see the rehearsal space, you take a tour of the theatre, you meet the production staff (I was fortunate enough to know our choreographer Parker Esse already as he and I have been friends for about 16 years, but this was going to be our first time working together so I was extremely excited for that), and you meet the cast. It's even more exciting when old friends are part of your production and I was lucky enough to have 5 in the show with me. Soon I would have another 22.
Now with a show like Fiddler it would be easy to just sit back and just do what has been done countless times. "If it ain't broke don't fix it", right? Well I have to say our director and choreographer; our champions Rob Ruggiero and Parker Esse have the difficult task of making this a Fiddler the likes of which had never been seen before.
Yes there are certain things expected by the Robbins estate (of which Parker has done a beautiful job of recreating Robbins work without making it the same movement you have seen time and time again) and Rob who has brought an incredible amount of humanity and realism to this piece of which I had never seen before either on stage or in the movie.
Like Rob says, "how does one prepare to direct one of the great musicals of all time? It starts with the play, and this magnificent story.... I think it is because the musical brilliantly articulates the universal struggle between tradition and change. Change is scary. We all fear change, and change that speaks to the root of who we are can be the most terrifying perhaps because it hits so close to home. Audiences cannot help but connect with this struggle, both with humor and with great feeling."
And with these words we were off... We recently opened the show this past Friday and what an opening night it was. For a brief moment before I went on that stage I stepped back and really took in just how important this story of Tevye the milkman and his family was. It isn't just a story about Jewish culture in the shtetls but rather something that can be felt and resonated through all of us. The struggles we have with our own lives and how we get through each day. What we do to provide and survive. How we will meet challenges ahead of us and how we react to them. It is these themes that run throughout the show that I think we have truly shared with our audiences. I look forward to the life of this show this summer and I look forward to sharing with you all this next month in our little town of Anatevka and East Haddam, Conn. L'chaim!!!