BWW Interviews: Golde Speaks! Ann Arvia Talks Arena Stage's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

BWW Interviews: Golde Speaks! Ann Arvia Talks Arena Stage's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

Jeffrey Walker of BroadwayWorld-DC caught up with two of Anatevka's most prominent citizens, Golde and Tevye. Actually, we spoke to actors Ann Arvia and Jonathan Hadary who are bringing these characters to life in the new and exciting production of Fiddler on the Roof wowing audiences on the iconic Fichlander Stage. Artistic director Molly Smith directs the production which features the original Jerome Robbins choreography adapted and restaged by Parker Esse. FIDDLER celebrates its 50 anniversary this year and Washington audiences can see this classic show newly minted. Hadary and Arvia make their Arena Stage debut performances in the Bock, Harnick, Stein musical masterpiece. This is part one: Jeffrey Walker's interview with Ann Arvia.

On Broadway, Arvia played the iconic Bird Woman in MARY POPPINS, Madame Thenardier in LES MISERABLES and appeared in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Off-Broadway saw her as Mrs. Carmody in the New York premiere of TIME AND AGAIN at MTC. Ann also toured extensively in both LES MISERABLES and RAGTIME. She most recently played the historic Goodspeed Opera House as Meg in DAMN YANKEES and Marie in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA and has appeared across the country in roles from Rose (GYPSY) to the Mother Abbess (THE SOUND OF MUSIC).

Arvia is no stranger to performing in Washington from her days of touring with such shows as LES MISERABLES. She is also not a new citizen of Anatevka. As an actress just starting out, her first professional job was playing the second youngest daughter, Shprintze, in Chicago, her hometown. Through the years, she also performed Hodel twice.

JEFFREY WALKER: How is it making your Arena Stage debut?

ANN ARVIA: I cannot begin to tell you how much I love working here. What an amazing, amazing company andBWW Interviews: Golde Speaks! Ann Arvia Talks Arena Stage's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF organization. They are so well organized; everybody works at an incredibly high level. And it's all about the product - nobody's ego seems to be involved in that building. It's the most remarkable thing I have ever witnessed as an actor.

Aside from working with such an esteemed organization, you are there working on FIDDLER IN THE ROOF, a landmark show that has been with us for 50 years. How does that feel?

The responsibility of it feels incredibly great because it is such a great piece of writing. Not a day went by in rehearsal that someone didn't step back to observe just how phenomenal the writing is. It's so tight, and there really is no fat in this show. Everything that's in there is necessary and moves the plot forward. It's like each scene is a little, well-crafted gem.

When Jonathan [Hadary ]and I worked through "Do I Love You?" one day, we did it twice and we just started giggling at the end of it because it is a perfect scene through song. If you spoke the text as a scene it would completely work and play.

Where do you think FIDDLER fits in to our American musical theatre history? Why is this one so significant?

Off the top of my head, I would probably put it in the top three, right up there with SHOWBOAT and GYPSY.

Earlier this year I got to open at the Goodspeed Opera House in DAMN YANKEES. They were also doing FIDDLER and I got to see a run-through of it there. I just got cast here at Arena and hadn't seen the show in a while. I marveled at how maybe the first ten minutes of FIDDLER, you might say, 'I'm watching a Jewish show. And then that completely falls away and it literally becomes a show about a family and a culture that's trying to deal with change. And there's nothing more universal than that. It's what every family system goes through no matter where you live in the world.

And given what is going on in the world today, I marvel at how horribly relevant this piece still is. Because you don't want it to be as relevant as it is, but with what's going on in the Ukraine, and with Anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli feelings being as high as it is in the world right now, FIDDLER plays in a very contemporary way, I think.

What sort of mother and wife is Golde for you?

Golde is so often played, in productions I have seen, as this cold, harridan, or battle-axe. Teyve is the one who gets to be all warm and fuzzy. To a certain degree you have to honor that, since you are the set up for his laughs. However, as we did table work and read through the play, there is so much depth of love for her children and her family unit - that is what came screaming out to me. And I didn't expect to be as moved at times in some of these scenes.

And Bock and Harnick's score contributes to the moving nature of so many scenes and moments.

All of it is so simple. "Sabbath Prayer" and "Sunrise Sunset" are not complex pieces of musical writing but they are so gorgeous in the moment. And I think the other brilliant thing they did with the show - and our conductor Paul Sportelli talked about this the first day - in this world of Anatevka, music existed if people made music. Music was not something that happened to you the way it is in our society. For them, music was part of their everyday life, but not through an earbud or iPod. They sang folk tunes, played instruments, and I think they accomplished that with this score. There is nothing in this score that doesn't sound really like something that would come out of that place or those people. We are using an orchestration for ten pieces that is scored to sound much more like a klezmer band than a symphonic orchestra sounding arrangement.

BWW Interviews: Golde Speaks! Ann Arvia Talks Arena Stage's FIDDLER ON THE ROOFWhat do you hope audiences will take away from when they see this Fiddler on the Roof?

I hope they have a really wonderful time at the theatre because this show has everything. You have great humor, great sorrow - living side by side - and ultimately, at the end, great hope. These people must go forge a life somewhere else. But I think what they will come away with is that surprise of 'wow - not a lot has changed from 1905. And we're all in this together, we are all people and we are all connected. You may call yourself a Jew, you many call yourself a Catholic, you may call yourself a Muslim, but ultimately we are all people trying to do best by our families and survive in a very harsh world. Our world right now may have more creature comforts, but it's still a pretty harsh world when you see the headlines on the news. That universality is what's going to surprise people, as it probably always has on this show.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at Arena Stage runs through January 4, 2015.

For Tickets and more information, click HERE

[MAIN - Top] Maria Rizzo as Chava and Ann Arvia as Golde in Fiddler on the Roof at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater October 31, 2014-January 4, 2015. Photo by Margot Schulman.

[CENTER - Right] Ann Arvia

[BOTTOM - Left] Illustration by Jody Hewgill.

PHOTO CREDIT(s): Arena Stage

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