Teens tackle tension between tradition, progress in Fiddler

“Fiddler on the Roof” is one of our favorite musicals and we were a little nervous about how such a dense and sophisticated show would translate to the conventions of the “Jr.” format, usually reserved for shows with a very young cast — and aimed at an equally young audience.

We needn’t have worried. Theatre in the Grove’s C.A.S.T. (Children’s After School Theatre) production, directed by Jeanna Van Dyke and Ashleigh Zijdemans (vocals), captures the spirit and emotional impact of the original story, and the cleverly edited script retains all of the powerful themes and characters.

In less than 90 minutes, “Fiddler, Jr.” deals with prejudice, religious freedom, women’s rights, love, class warfare, and the tension between tradition and progress — all topics as current today as they were when the Harnick and Bock show made its Broadway debut in 1964.

Set in the tiny Russian village of Anatevka in 1905, the story revolves around Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman; his wife, Golde; and their five daughters. By the closing number, the Jewish villagers have been driven out by the Cossacks; three of Tevye’s daughters have bucked tradition and picked their own spouses without the assistance of matchmaker Yente; and the remaining family members are headed off to America to live with an unsuspecting uncle.

Jer Stephens (Tevye) provides a firm anchor for the show. He brings a mature dramatic sensibility, comedic precision, and a solid singing voice to the role. Courtesy photo

The relationship between Stephens and Mikayla Wallace (Golde) works beautifully. While she is technically subservient to her husband, Golde tries to rule the family with an iron hand, but is constantly undercut by her husband’s romanticism and indecision. Wallace’s lovely voice adds a lot, especially in the touching “Do You Love Me?”

The three oldest daughters (Crystal White as Tzeitel, Brea Grimes as Hodel, and Brenna Fitzgerald as Chava) provide charming voices, and they do a great job of conveying their growing resistance to traditional notions of arranged marriage. Among the rest of the cast, Jack Thias (Motel the Tailor) particularly shines — he is poignant and believable as Tzeitel’s timid suitor, emboldened by love.

Unlike many productions we have seen, this cast has a real Fiddler (Adam Borrego) and he is both a good musician and an integral part of the show.

The all-teen crew successfully tackles the complexity of prerecorded music. The beautiful set is complemented by the intricate and effective lighting.

At only $5 a ticket, this is the best game in town, and we hope that the entire Forest Grove community shows this production the support it merits.

A longer version of this review appears at

Contract Publishing

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