Tradition! Community celebrates Fiddler on the Roof

by | Oct 26, 2023 | Other News

Anatevka map. This engagement piece in the Wells Theater shows where families emigrated from.

Todd Holcomb
Excitement and anticipation were percolating for months around the opening of Fiddler on the Roof at the historic—and newly renovated—Wells Theatre. Finally, after all the intricate planning, midnight rehearsals, and engaging lead-up events, the Tidewater Jewish community came together on Thursday, October 5 for an inspiring pre-show celebration and larger-than-life performance of Fiddler.

The partnership between United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Virginia Stage Company for this production was a beautiful and timely celebration of Jewish culture and the arts in Tidewater. More so today than ever, it is impossible to overstate the importance Fiddler has for many American Jews, or the way that the musical has become part of Jewish tradition. This was highlighted in a series of engagement events in August and September, including a concert at the ViBe Farmers Market in Virginia Beach, a screening of the documentary film Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles at Cinema Café Kemps River, an educational series, The History Behind Fiddler on the Roof led by Rabbi Michael Panitz at the Simon Family JCC, and a panel discussion on the play’s impact with Rabbi Panitz and Virginia Stage Company leaders Tom Quaintance and Jeff Ryder, held at the Wells Theatre.

Throughout October, reviews and personal accounts have poured in praising the production. Warren Aleck commented, “I’ve told several people that I enjoyed this production more than any other I’ve seen—in New York, Washington D.C., or any other major city. Baritone John Payonk, who performed the role of Tevye, was cast perfectly and it was great knowing we had local performers in this stellar production. We were so drawn in by the performance that my wife Helen and I could have sat there for another two hours.”

Local theater-goer Michael Hodges shared, “Fiddler at the Wells was not just a play; it was an experience that touched the soul. It’s a testament to the enduring power of live theater to entertain, inspire, and provoke deep reflection on current events. I left the theatre with a heart full of joy and gratitude for having witnessed such an exceptional performance. Bravo to the cast, crew, and everyone involved in bringing this timeless classic to life. L’Chaim!”

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC appreciate the Virginia Stage Company and all of the generous donors, sponsors, and partners who made this experience possible. UJFT also extends thanks to VSC for standing with Israel amid the ongoing war against Hamas and accepting donations contributing to the Tidewater Supports Israel – 2023 Emergency Fund.

The production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Wells Theatre and the Fiddler programs produced by the UJFT/Simon Family JCC are supported by The Making Music Happen Community Grant Initiative, which is made possible by a generous grant from the Pertzik Fund for Arts and Culture at JCC Association of North America.