All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Talia Brenner, a student at Walt Whitman High School , reviews Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School’s Fiddler on the Roof’as part of the Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

With emotional artistry and unmistakable chutzpah, Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School students wove a comical yet heartrending tale in their production of Fiddler on the Roof. The musical, which depicts a Jewish village in Tsarist Russia, was certainly a surprising choice for a Catholic high school, but actors flawlessly proved that despite cultural differences, familial love is a universal theme.

Based on the story “Tevye and his Daughters,” Fiddler on the Roof first brought Jewish history and elements of Yiddish theatre to a mainstream, English-speaking audience. Written by Joseph Stein and music and lyrics by Jerry Bock, and Sheldon Harnick, the comedy giant Zero Mostel starred as Tevya when the musical opened in 1964 to great commercial success. Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School students delivered a smashingly energized performance that kept the audience riveted.

To the sound of a Yiddish folk melody, the curtain opens to reveal a fiddler (Denise Gallant) precariously perched on a roof. Tevye (Jimmy Mullen), a humble milkman and dutiful father, explains that everyone in the poor village of Anatevka is a fiddler on a roof, struggling to maintain piety and tradition amid modernity and religious oppression. Mullen truly embodied a man racked by self-conflict, as Tevye’s steadfast faith is tested by his daughters’ nontraditional marriages. Mullen successfully portrayed a wide emotional variety; his brilliant comedic timing drove the audience to laughter during Tevye’s casual conversations with God, while emotional scenes of Tevye’s painful decisions were tear-jerking.

Supporting and featured characters also never failed to impress. Abigail Williams was hilarious in her turn as gossipy, kvetching matchmaker Yente, and Sabrina Morales excelled as Tevye’s sharp-tongued wife, Golde. Morales’ strong vocals and genuine acting made “Do You Love Me?” a touchingly sweet number. The oldest three of Tevye’s daughters, Tzeitel (Christine Connor), Hodel (Felicity Moran), and Chava (Megan Krakie), showed triple-threat talents throughout the show. In particular, Connor showed excellent chemistry with her sweetheart, Moran’s voice soared in “Far From the Home I Love,” and Krakie performed a graceful dance solo. Fiddler on the Roof’s heavily featured ensemble maintained high levels of energy in large dance numbers and demonstrated vocal expertise with spot-on harmonies. An ensemble favorite seemed to be Tevye’s “Dream,” where dead relatives accompanied the shrieking ghost of Fruma-Sarah (Monica Loesel) in a warning from beyond the grave.

Technical elements further upheld the school’s tradition of excellence. Jimmy Mullen, Michele LeBlanc, Colson Stewart, and Ryan Goerl’s set included a rotatable house and a bed whose upright construction gave the audience a bird-eye view. Michele LeBlanc’s vividly lit backdrops included every color in the sunrise and sunset. Although some set changes could have been quicker, a student set crew mostly handled very large pieces with ease.

Almost a hundred years after the show’s 1905 setting, the ugly face of religious persecution still exists around the world. Still, one does not need to live in Anatevka to know that family and community can provide love and support in times of strife. Since 1964, Fiddler on the Roof has been translated into many languages and performed around the world. This is due in part to the prevalence and pertinence of its themes, and Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School students could not have made that clearer.