Torrance Theatre Company brings the tradition* of “Fiddler on the Roof” to the Armstrong Theatre
“Tradition” is more than one of the many hit songs in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, it’s the essence and spirit of the story. So says James Hormel, who directs the upcoming production of the show for the Torrance Theatre Company.
Originally from the Sacramento area, Hormel first came to Southern California to attend graduate school in 1987. He said he has worked as an actor in several of the South Bay theaters. Directing, he’s “worked mainly for Torrance, while teaching full-time at Cypress College.”
He said he’s never directed Fiddler before but has performed it twice previously.
What is difficult about directing this show?
“The difficulty is you know it’s a musical notation of the culture, and I don’t come from the Jewish culture, so getting that part as true as you can is the goal. It’s authentic to a point, but obviously it’s bigger. It’s gaining the ability to just embrace the family and togetherness … but I think the reason it is so popular is that it goes beyond that … everybody understands the importance of tradition,” says Hormel. “The play is largely about a father trying to adapt his thought process and his belief system to what his daughters are bringing home, in order not to lose them. Eventually, he kind of loses that battle a little bit. That’s something that never stops – parents trying to adapt to their children.”
What’s your favorite part of the show?
“I think I saw my first production of Fiddler when I was in junior high,” said Hormel. “I love the dream sequence.” He said that most of the play takes place in a world probably similar to the one they lived, except for the dream sequence, which is really fun. The dream sequence occurs when the father of the family, Tevye, awakes from a nightmare about one of his daughter’s wedding plans. His wife, Golde, interprets the dream as a visitation from a passed relative and as a sign.
How are the cast and rehearsals?
“I don’t normally say this because with musicals there is so much to do, but we’re really ahead of schedule,” said Hormel, halfway into the rehearsal time. “…We still have to deal with sets and props, but we don’t get those until the last week. (The company doesn’t get into the theater until days before the opening.) … You really can’t figure it all out until you have all the stuff in the right space … Certainly there’s a lot of work we can do but I feel very good about where we are.”
Hormel said he has a full schedule of shows taking him through the new year, most of which are at Cypress College.
David McGee is Tevye
A Southern California native, David McGee, admits to not having done much theater in the South Bay, so he’s jumping in at full speed with the lead role of Tevye. “I did last year’s Christmas show with the Torrance company. I recently started looking for a theater in Torrance to work with when my (day-time) job got moved here. I used to work in Pasadena. Since I’m here, it’s easier to get to rehearsals here than it is to go all the way back to Pasadena.
McGee said he did Fiddler when he was 17 years old, in high school. “I played Tevye,” said McGee. “I haven’t had the opportunity; it just hasn’t come up when my schedule matched and I haven’t seen the chance to play Fiddler since then. This came up this summer so I jumped on the opportunity and I’m thrilled to be cast as Tevye.”
Planning on bringing anything new to the character?
“Oh yeah,” said McGee without hesitation. “I’m bringing another 25 years of experience.”
Of the songs he sings, his favorite is “If I Were a Rich Man,” though he said, “Too Far From Home,” is a moving ballad.
As per the cast and rehearsals, he said as did his director that everything was ahead of schedule. “The rehearsals and the cast are remarkable. I’m having such a great time with the cast, whether it’s interacting with them on stage or when I’m not onstage and just sitting and watching. It’s an amazing group of people with really great talent and we’re having a good time.”
McGee said he worked with James Hormel “just a couple years after college in a summer stock program in Columbia, California.” He said Hormel’s presence with the Torrance Theatre gave him hope for work when he was looking for places to play in Torrance. Also, several people who did the Christmas show are in this Fiddler.
He said the company is taking advantage of the Armstrong Theatre’s orchestra pit by hiring a full Broadway orchestra.
After Fiddler, McGee hopes to continue with the Torrance Theatre company, “Because they have some really nice things coming up. I might have to take a little break right after Fiddler because I have to be at every rehearsal and it’s been a tough schedule.”
Fiddler on the Roof, Torrance Theatre Company, Armstrong Theatre, 3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance. August 11, 18, 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. August 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. Adults $35, Seniors $30, Children $25. Call 310-781-7171 or visit torrancetheatrecompany.com.