May 6 2009 12:00 AM

Civic Players closes 80th season with ’Fiddler’


If you’ve got a song in your head you feel like keeping for a while, you might do well to avoid Lansing Civic Players latest production. Chances are it has little to no chance against the infectious melodies of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which have been known to drive even the most disciplined minds to purse lips and whistle “If I were a Rich Man,” oblivious to glaring co-workers.

The 1964 Tony-winning musical, with book by Joseph Stein, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock, follows the life of Jewish dairy farmer Tevye, as he tries to keep his family and religious traditions intact in the changing social climate of Czarist Russia.

Director Dan Pappas said the extremely popular play was chosen as part of an effort to revive old favorites in recognition of Civic Players’ 80th season (which comes to a close with this production). It appears at least one person is excited; Pappas said a man who played the lead in the company’s production of the “Fiddler” in the 1970s recently paid a visit to the theater’s office to share his excitement about the show. “There’s that extra challenge, because people know this so well,” Pappas said. “It’s got to be fresh, upbeat and a true telling of that that story. That can be an advantage, but also a disappointment if we’re not on our game.”

To put a twist on the show, Pappas and set designer Tom Ferris worked out a pop-up-book style set, which Pappas said gives the play a storybook feel, as well as makes more room on stage for the cast of 30-plus.

Following a successful tech rehearsal, Pappas had high hopes for what he considers, despite the somber ending, to be a hopeful show. “It really pulls on all your emotions, and in the end [when the villagers are dispersed], although it’s not like other musicals, what all rang true to me is it still has a sense of hope. These are people who ended up being our ancestors, immigrated to the United States and all over the world. They brought a sense of community and a work ethic that was hard. It’s our hope that we portray, even in tough times, there is a sense of hope, and that comes with connecting with others and having a strong work ethic,” Pappas said.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’

8-17 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday 2 p.m. Sunday Lansing Civic Players,
Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road, East Lansing $10-$17 (517)

Train to East Lansing?

All-of-us-Express Children’s Theater is talking with the city of East Lansing about possibly moving the troupe into the Hannah Community Center and merging with the city’s department of Parks, Recreation & Arts.

Miranda Sue Hartmann, artistic director at All-of-us-Express, said the children’s theater’s Logan Square facility in south Lansing has been difficult to work in for the last several years due to plumbing and roofing issues, as well as problems with heating and air conditioning, and the children’s theater already hosts three shows a year at the Hannah Center. Hartmann said details are still being worked out, and the board was to meet with city officials this week, after which a meeting of the theater’s members would be called.

To see the children’s theater at work, head to Riverwalk Theatre this weekend for Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach, the last shows of its production.”

“James and the Giant Peach.” 7 p.m. Friday, 2 & 4:30 p.m. Saturday & 2 p.m. Sunday through May 10. Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Drive, Lansing. $7/$5. (517) 482-5700.

Starry night

It’s that time again, when the best and brightest in Lansing theater all come out at the same time: The City Pulse Pulsar Awards. Find out who had the best in everything from props to production and who our editor, publisher and emcee Berl Schwartz manages to offend while trying to be funny at our annual theater awards event.

The Pulsars will be at 5:30 p.m. June 8, at Houlihan’s in the Lansing Mall. Tickets are $20, which includes a $20 credit toward ordering from the menu. Entrees range from $13 to $25, with almost all less than $20. Seating is limited and tickets are required in advance and will not be sold at the door. To order tickets call (517) 371-5600 Ext. 12.