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Students Take on Tradition in “Fiddler on The Roof”

Julie Vasquez
Students rehearse “The Dream” during after-school rehearsals.

Hamilton’s musical theater department is performing the critically acclaimed production of Fiddler on The Roof for its spring musical. The powerhouse show was a challenge to put together, but the cast and AMPA’s musical theater instructor and director, Ms. Gordon worked hard to make it successful. The show opens April 18 and runs through two weekends, closing on April 27.

“Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of a Jewish family facing hatred from Russians and struggling with the idea of deviating from the Jewish faith. Ms. Gordon said she is passionate about the concept of the show and the message it sends to Hamilton’s student population. Her passion comes from her background with the show. Ms. Gordon’s father played the starring role of Tevye in 17 different productions across southern California, her mother played the role of Hodel in five productions with her father, and Ms. Gordon performed in three of those productions with her family. 

Ms. Gordon said, “This show is literally woven into the fabric of my family. I live and breathe this show.”

Madison Fujioka, a junior in AMPA who plays the role of Chava in the show, said she was able to build upon the love that Ms. Gordon has for the show.

“Her passion for the show can really be shown through the amount of love that she puts into every single type of blocking,” Madison said. “When we’ve done our dialogue analysis, when we’ve broken down these characters, you can see how much love she has for the show and the joy that she spreads from the show can be seen from the whole cast.”

Ms. Gordon’s passion extended past the production of the show. It also involved working with the cast to understand the religious elements of the plot. “Fiddler on The Roof” follows an Orthodox Jewish family, so the cast spent time learning from each other about the Jewish faith.

AMPA senior Joaquin Cota Levin, who plays Motel, said, “I’m Jewish, but I don’t practice everything. It’s been nice getting to teach people some things. There are traditions and celebrations that people might not know about, and educating people is nice because it’s helping the cast better understand each other.”

Syriah Howard, a sophomore in AMPA who plays the role of Fruma Sarah, studied with the cast to understand the Jewish faith, and made her own connections between the show and her own life experiences. 

“I’m not Jewish, but seeing how back then how ostracized and demonized Jewish people were for their faith has brought me to the fact that we have similarities, me being Black and all, and the concept of being demonized for stuff that I cannot personally control,” Syriah said.

Ms. Gordon also worked to show practices of Orthodox Jewish faith in a respectful manner. She taught her students certain actions, such as the characters kissing a mezuzah to show that God is all around them throughout the show. The cast also attended a traditional Shabbat dinner held by the family of cast member Ori Zakai, who plays Tzeitel.

While part of the journey for the cast was connecting with the Jewish faith, for AMPA senior Cody Holmes the journey also involved connecting with a far older character. 

Cody Holmes and Vidalia Diaz practice the staging for a song during rehearsal. (Julie Vasquez)

“I think he’s mid forties and I’m seventeen, so it’s a pretty interesting process,” Cody said of playing Tevye. “A lot of what I’ve been taking reference from is my dad, my grandpa, other family members who have that authoritative quality to them. Tevye is very strong and very ‘I want this and this is going to happen now,’ so finding that has been really, really challenging.”

Ms. Gordon said Cody did an excellent job channeling the emotions of a fatherly figure to play Tevye.

“[Tevye] has optimism, dignity, pride, fatherly love, and adores his family,” she said. “I think it’s his sense of pride and the dignity with which he walks that even though the Russians in the show look down on the Jews, he never looks down on himself.”

Cody was supported in the channeling of his character by Ms. Gordon’s own father, who attended some rehearsals to work with the cast.

“The knowledge that he has over the character is huge. Getting to work with him and finding little moments in the character with him has been great,” Cody said. “I also get to wear his hat in the show and I feel very honored to get to do that. That’s also very helpful, having someone there who knows him so well.”

With the understanding that went into each character, the plot, and the Jewish faith, the cast said they feel a great responsibility for the show. The play heavily focuses on family and tradition and what that means for each character. 

Ms. Gordon described it as, “What happens when one generation wants to push the boundaries and how does the older generation handle that?”

Cody said his understanding of the message was represented through Tevye’s personal struggles in the show.

“He finds some conflict later on in the show and he has to kind of grapple with if it’s his way or is it somebody else’s way?” said Cody. “Finding that throughout this whole process has been a really interesting thing to play with.” 

Madison spoke more on Tevye’s personal journey and how it can be viewed throughout the show’s plot.

“Tevye goes through the challenges of breaking those rules that the whole village has created for themselves. Seeing those rules break and bend is a tough challenge,” She said. “The emotional attachment he has to those rules is so important to him, so when he’s able to persevere through those challenges I think it is a really good message of the show.”

The cast of “Fiddler on The Roof” said the play turned into a passion project for everyone involved.

Madison said, “[Ms. Gordon] loves it so much that she’s protecting the image of the show. Now it’s our responsibility to carry that on.”

Cody added, “It’s a very great show and it has a lot. You’re going to cry but you’re going to laugh, too. You should come see it.”

The show will run at the Norman Pattiz Theater starting April 18. Students can see performance dates and purchase tickets at

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Julie Vasquez
Julie Vasquez, Staff Writer
Julie Vasquez is the assistant editor for the student life section of The Federalist. She is a junior in AMPA at Alexander Hamilton Senior High. Julie covers culture and trends. She is interested in drawing along with creative writing! You can share feedback and story ideas with Julie through email at [email protected] or on Instagram @federalistathami.

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