‘Fiddler on the Roof’ sets Village Theatre sales record

January 29, 2013

By Warren Kagarise

By Jay Koh/Village Theatre Eric Polani Jensen stars as Tevye in Village Theatre’s record-setting production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’

Eric Polani Jensen stars as Tevye in Village Theatre’s record-setting production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Theatergoers embraced “Fiddler on the Roof” and propelled the classic musical to a Village Theatre sales record.

The spectacle centered on the godfearing milkman Tevye played at the downtown Issaquah theater through November and December, and then shifted to the Everett Performing Arts Center.

In Issaquah, a record 32,726 audience members attended the show, including more than 14,000 single-ticket buyers — a significant number for a playhouse reliant on seasonal subscribers.

In Everett, “Fiddler on the Roof” set more milestones. The show reached the revenue goals before opening night — a first for Village Theatre’s Snohomish County stage — and broke the sales record for single-ticket revenue two weeks before “Fiddler on the Roof” closed Jan. 27.

“One of the good things about a show like ‘Fiddler’ is that it gets more people into the theater who realize they can have a good time in the theater,” Village Theatre Executive Producer Robb Hunt said. “Then, they’re more likely to buy more tickets for additional shows later on.”

“Fiddler on the Roof” opened in Issaquah on Nov. 8 to a standing ovation and enthusiastic reviews.

The cast — led by Eric Polani Jensen as Tevye and Bobbi Kotula as tart-tongued Golde — charmed audiences and critics.

Hunt credits the talented performers and a production crew dedicated to incorporating details from Jewish history into the set, costumes and props.

The director, David Ira Goldstein, also made a point to imbue traditional customs in the performances.

“His heritage supplied a lot in terms of the details,” Hunt said.

(Goldstein also serves as the artistic director at the Arizona Theatre Co. in Tucson.)

By the numbers

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ played at Village Theatre’s Francis J. Gaudette Theatre from Nov. 8 through Dec. 30 and in the process set sales records and helped the theater reach a goal for seasonal subscribers.

  • 32,726 — attendees in Issaquah
  • 14,584 — single-ticket buyers in Issaquah
  • 18,300 — projected goal for subscribers

Source: Village Theatre

The musical unfolds in Anatevka, a shtetl, or village, in Russia. The hardship in the shtetl and unrelenting threats against Jews mean the family is often perched as precariously as a fiddler on a roof.

Tevye’s life is upended after a daughter refuses to join the shtetl’s age-old matchmaking tradition.

“In any generation, there’s a change from family traditions that people have to wrestle with, and I think we see that now just as much” as in the past, Hunt said. “I think people identify with that problem — it’s universal.”

Later shows could benefit from strong sales

The previous record-holder in Issaquah is the 2008-09 holiday season production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Jensen starred as the Beast and Kotula played Mrs. Potts in the Disney screen-to-stage adaptation.

“Fiddler on the Roof” — in subscriptions and single-ticket sales — beat the revenue generated by “Beauty and the Beast” by about 20 percent.

The record for original musicals in Issaquah is held by “Anne of Green Gables” from the 2010-11 season. The show displaced “Million Dollar Quartet” from the top spot for original musicals, although “Anne of Green Gables” ran longer in Issaquah.

“Million Dollar Quartet” later ran on Broadway, and earned a Tony Award for actor Levi Kreis. The jukebox musical is scheduled to open next month at Harrah’s Las Vegas after a successful national tour and a just-concluded London run.

Village Theatre last presented “Fiddler on the Roof” in the 1990s.

Though audience surveys indicated a desire for the playhouse to revive the musical, rights to the show remained elusive for years due to national tours and major productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” elsewhere.

“When it did come available, we jumped at the chance of doing it,” Hunt said. “We’d already done the surveys and we knew the audience loved it and, of course, we loved it. We knew we could do a good job with it.”

Hunt said “Fiddler on the Roof” acted as a strong lead-in for shows later in the season. “The Mousetrap,” onstage through Feb. 24, before the original musical “Trails” and the spectacle “Chicago” close the 2012-13 season.

“Nothing works as well as word of mouth and just sort of an energy about community,” Hunt said. “People want to come and have this experience together.”

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