For Center Stage Theatre founders Gary and Francesca Scarpa, directing “Fiddler on the Roof” has become something of a tradition.
The upcoming Center Stage production of the classic story of a poor Jewish dairyman who struggles with changing times and the dissolution of traditions marks the eighth time the duo has directed the musical since their 1978 production with the Shelton High School Drama Club.
“That 1978 production was the one that put us on the map,” Gary Scarpa said. “It was the first time the huge auditorium at the new Shelton High School had been sold out, and, in this case, three times, including a command performance.
“Well over 4,000 people saw the production,” he said. “We had an extraordinary student playing Tevye and a talented cast of kids who really believed in us.”
Themes: Parenthood and tradition
The Scarpas then went on to direct “Fiddler” with the Orange Players, Amity High School Drama Club, Youth CONNection, twice with the Sacred Heart Academy Drama Club, and again in 1994 with the Shelton High School Drama Club.
“Each experience was profound,” said Francesca Scarpa, who will appear in the role of Yente the Matchmaker in the new production. “The play’s universal themes of parenthood and tradition never fail to touch audiences deeply.”
“It touched our hearts the first time we staged it,” she said, “and I am moved by the experience of directing actors to tell this story today as much as I was back in 1978 — probably even more.”
Marc Garofalo leads the cast
Starring in the Center Stage production will be Derby resident and Center Stage veteran Marc Garofalo as Tevye. Garofalo is the former mayor of Derby.
“This is the second time Marc will have played Tevye for us, and the fourth time he will have appeared in a Scarpa-directed Fiddler,” Gary Scarpa said. “The first time he played Tevye was at Sacred Heart Academy when he was 25. Now in his mid-40s, he is the perfect age for the role. And the fact is, Marc was born to play Tevye.”
Joining Garofalo in the production are Jackie Downing of Hamden as Tevye’s wife Golde, and Derby’s Ali Dunne along with Shelton’s Kathryn Twohill and Tara Werner as Tevye’s three daughters. The remainder of the cast are residents of Shelton, Ansonia, Derby, Hamden, New Haven, North Haven, Seymour and Stratford.
Show times and how to get tickets
Which of the eight “Fiddler on the Roof” productions are the Scarpas’ favorite? “Why, this one, of course,” Gary Scarpa replied.
The production runs Jan. 31 to Feb. 22, with performances Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., and Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets at 203-225-6079 or www.centerstageshelton.com.