‘Fiddler On The Roof’ Comes to Muncie Civic Theatre

Photo by Amanda Kishel

By Michelle Kinsey—

MUNCIE, IN—It’s a word you will hear often when talking with people involved in the upcoming Muncie Civic Theatre production of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Take the show’s director, Michael O’Hara, for example.

“The show is about community,” he said. “A community that, in this case, is cast out of their town by hate and fear, but they – the community – face this adversity with humanity and courage. That message of community, the deep connections that we can – and sometimes still do – feel for one another, is one that resonates through the ages. We all seek community, and I’m very grateful for the community that I’ve found here in Muncie.”

And Muncie is a community that Adam B. Shapiro was thrilled to be able to return to as the show’s guest artist. He will be the show’s traditional patriarch, Tevye.

A 2004 graduate of Ball State University (Musical Theatre major), Shapiro received a call in 2022 from his former BSU mentor and, now, good friend O’Hara about the possibility of returning to Muncie for the show.

“Fiddler on the Roof’” has been present throughout my entire theatrical life,” Shapiro said. “I first did it in summer camp [in Indianapolis] when I was 9 years old and then I played Tevye at North Central High School when I was 17. I moved to New York City after college, which is where I still live, and spent my twenties being told that I was too young to play any of the roles in ‘Fiddler’ professionally.”

He went on to perform in the first off-Broadway – and award-winning – United States production of “Fiddler” in Yiddish (directed by Oscar and Tony winner Joel Grey of “Cabaret” fame).

And, he said, he’s excited to again bring Tevye to life, particularly exploring the character’s “breaking point.”

“I think ‘Fiddler’ forces us to ask ourselves what our breaking point is and what happens when you reach it? That’s where I really find Tevye fascinating,” he said. “He starts the show hugging his traditions tightly and then he is asked to loosen the grip, maybe even let some of them go.”

Shapiro has been working remotely as much as possible with the cast (which has been in rehearsals since January) via Facetime and Zoom. (“You’d be surprised how much I have to review the English after getting so used to the Yiddish,” he noted.). An understudy, Patrick McDonald, has been on stage in person to do the blocking and choreography with the nearly 60-person cast.

Speaking of the cast, O’Hara has built quite a community there as well.

“We have several families performing together,” he said. “Not always the entire family, but lots of parents with at least one or two children of their own on stage. We’ve matched all those families together so that we have 9 different families (so, 18 different families) represented on stage in addition to the main family [Tevye and Golde and their five daughters].”

Muncie resident Sally Kelley is Golde in the production. She described her character as “a strong, flawed woman.”

“She is grounded and no-nonsense, the perfect foil to Tevye, the affable dreamer,” she added.

Kelley said she was drawn to the show because, to put it simply, it’s “a wonderful show.”

“The story is funny, poignant, and heart-breaking. The characters feel familiar; they remind you of various people you know in your own community. I wanted to be a part of such wonderful storytelling.”

Storytelling that is also timeless.

“’Fiddler on the Roof’ opened in 1964 and it is about events around 1905,” Kelley said. “It is tempting to wonder if such stories are relevant to modern audiences. But they are. They show us that no matter how much things change, things are the same. We know people like these characters. We see younger generations challenging the traditions and beliefs of their elders. We see the effects of governments forcing people from their homes, treating them in the most cruel and inhumane ways. And most importantly, we see people coming together in spite of it all. Hope. We need this story because we need hope.”

Civic’s Executive Director Laura Williamson also reflected on universality of “Fiddler.”

“We all have these family structures we can relate to, whether we are the child or the parent,” she said. “I feel like we can all see ourselves in this simple story that is about so much more than arranged marriages.”

Especially for Williams who, years ago, met her husband, Michael (the musical director, along with Alex Kocoshis, of this 2024 production), at an audition for “Fiddler.”

This time around, she said, it has been very important for the theater “to honor this beautiful story of a community and do that as authentically as we can from a production standpoint. And speaking for everyone involved in the show, that has changed us. It has added new perspectives to all of our lives.”

She said she hopes audiences will be able to “step into that time period, with the cast and have empathy for people struggling all over the world.”

“And we hope everyone finds themselves somewhere in this musical – as a parent, a child. … You can’t say that about every musical.”

Muncie Civic Theatre will present “Fiddler on the Roof” on its Mainstage April 12-14, 19-21, and 25-28. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinees will begin at 2:30 p.m. This production is Rated PG. For tickets and more information, go to www.munciecivic.org or call (765) 288-PLAY.