Traditionally spring plays are smaller and slightly scaled back from their fall production counterparts, but this year as drama teacher Candice Wilder prepared to put on her last play at Morgan High School, she broke tradition and chose to present “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“This was my last year, so I chose the show that I love the most, “Fiddler on the Roof.” It has been my favorite show forever. It has so much heart to it and is so much deeper than some of the other superficial musicals,” she shared. “This production was the culmination of five years of training for my students. It was the first time I let the students completely run the show. I have been training many of them since seventh grade, and they were amazing!”
The talented Morgan High student performers and technical staff completely produced the play from casting to stage managing under the supervision of Wilder, but all decisions were made by the students. Most of the practices were initially held during the school day in two classes—Play Productions and Musical Theater—while the technical aspects and staging came to life in two different Stage Tech classes. Over 70 students, including seven Morgan Elementary actors, came together to show the strength of Morgan High’s drama tradition.
As the play opens, fiddler of the roof, Daniel Floyd, sits perched on the roof of the barn, playing the opening notes of the score on his violin before Tevye, played by senior Gage Anderson, and the ensemble enter to fill the auditorium with the song and dance of the opening number “Tradition.”
Anderson, a veteran four-year performer at MHS who also played Shrek in the fall performance, scored another hit as Tevye with his musical talent and thespian abilities. Anderson, who cites Shrek as his favorite high school role because he “got to sing and really get a feel for life,” loved the scene in Fiddler, when he was able to give his blessing and permission to Hodel and Perchik to marry. “I could really show my feelings for my daughter being married.
“The most challenging aspect of this play,” he continued, “was the thought of this being my last play at MHS with this cast. It’s been fun. I will miss it, so live it while it’s here!” After graduation, Anderson will serve an LDS mission to Bentonville, Arkansas. When he returns from his service, he would like to study theater at Brigham Young University or Weber State University and “something else that I can have for a career to actually make money.”
The play starred 17 seniors who will leave behind Morgan High and their acting experiences with fond memories. Tevye’s wife in the play, Golde, was played by senior Kennedy Thomas. Thomas’ stern Golde was a perfect foil to Anderson’s light-hearted but reflective Tevye. She beautifully delivered the songs “Sabbath Prayer” and “Do You Love Me?” alongside Anderson.
Senior Sagen Wilkinson, who played the role of Fyedka, the Russian suitor of Tevye’s youngest daughter, Chava, “just loved how close the cast was and how well we performed the play. “ Wilkinson, who has performed in over six plays while at MHS, reflected that his favorite role was Donkey in Shrek.
Another senior, Logan Russell, who played Model the tailor, loved the “L’Chaim” scene in the play, saying “you can forget everything and have a good time on stage.” Russell is headed to BYU and hopes to major in performing arts with a musical theater minor or get a degree in political science. “Fiddler shows that not every story has a happy ending. This play shows that actions or decisions made by others really hurt people.”
Throughout the play, tremendous performances by the lead roles, which were all double cast, except Tevye and Golde, were interspersed with lively chorus scenes of dance and singing. The wedding scene was a favorite among many of the actors as well as Wilder.
“I loved the wedding scene. The cast worked so hard on it to make it great with the singing and dancing. I love to watch the scenes from the beginning to the end result and see them progress,” she recounted.
During the wedding scene, dancers performed the Jewish bottle dance to perfection. In this dance, young women [and the rabbi joined in on the final night of performance] dance with bottles on their head and bets are placed to see who can keep them on their head the longest.
Rachael Rasmussen, a sophomore dancer who has performed in several plays in her two years at the high school, had fun learning the bottle dance, but her favorite part of the play was watching Tevye dance and sing “If I were a Rich Man.”
Spenser Johnson, a sophomore, was the stage manager for “Fiddler on the Roof.” It was the first time Wilder was not in the booth and let a student call a play by him or herself. “It was hard to give up the control and watch the play from the audience for the first time ever at Morgan High,” Wilder commented. “It was strange to watch the play in the audience and not be directly involved.”
“It was a great experience and I hope to be able to do it again,” Johnson shared. “This was my first time on the tech side. It is very different than acting and being on the stages, but very enjoyable. I have decided I like the tech side better and would like to become a professional stage tech. “
Johnson and all of the other “techies” benefited from the experience of Wilder’s husband, Alex Thedell, a new 2016 graduate of Weber State’s technical theater program. “Alex helped us learn so much. He is so great to share his experience with us,” Johnson summarized.
On the final night, tears were shed as the play closed and the cast said goodbye to their teacher, director and mentor, Candice Wilder. Anderson fondly noted, “There is not a word that fully describes what Wilder is to me…She is more than a teacher, she’s a mentor. I have trusted her and love working with her.”
Russell continued, “Wilder is such an amazing person and I was lucky to have her as my teacher for the last four years.”
As Wilder reflected on her time at Morgan, she commented, “I feel I built on a strong drama tradition at Morgan High. I kept some things that were being done in the past and added new things of my own. I hope I have kept up the quality expected of the MHS drama department. I am leaving Morgan for a better opportunity for me and husband to pursue our professional careers and dreams. I feel this is a step toward my ultimate dream of becoming a professional actor. I love Morgan. I love the students and the community and will forever treasure my time here!”