For Colleen Johnson, being a Methodist hasn’t hindered her from portraying a Jew.
Johnson will come to Johnstown as part of the national touring company of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township.
Johnson, an aspiring entertainer from Effingham, Ill., has been on the road since October playing the role of Tzeitel, the oldest of five daughters of Tevye, a poor Russian milkman from the Russian village of Anatevka.
“I love the role of Tzeitel because she is the first in her family to ask for change from traditional Jewish customs,” Johnson said.
Lazar Wolf, the wealthy butcher, a widower older than Tevye, wants to wed Tzeitel. But Tzeitel is unenthusiastic and wants to marry her childhood friend, Motel the Tailor.
The turmoil causes Tevye, from the Russian village of Anatevka, to declare: “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as ... as a ‘fiddler on the roof.’ ”
That begins a tale of love and laughter, devotion and defiance, and changing customs.
“Tzeitel takes a stand against her parents, her heritage and the Jewish traditions,” Johnson said. “I admire her because she is shy, yet confident in herself.”
While Johnson views herself more of a singer than an actress, that’s not the case in this production.
“I only sing several songs, including ‘Matchmaker’ when I’m told a marriage is being arranged and ‘Anatevka,’ the song that is sung as the residents are leaving their beloved village.”
Her favorite regional credits include Eva Peron in “Evita,” Cathy in “The Last Five Years” and Maria in “West Side Story.”
This is Johnson’s first national tour. She calls it “grueling in the best possible way.”
“It’s exciting doing our version of this wonderful story,” Johnson said. “This is not the movie. We are doing different portrayals of the characters and giving the classic story a twist.”
No other musical has so magically woven music, dance, poignancy and laughter into such a remarkable experience.
Tevye’s wrestling with the new customs of a younger generation is punctuated by an unforgettable score that weaves the haunting strains of “Sunrise, Sunset” and the rousing “If I Were a Rich Man” with the exuberant “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and triumphant “Tradition.”
When his daughters choose suitors who defy his idea of a proper match, Tevye comes to realize, through a series of incidents that are comic and bittersweet, that his children will begin traditions of their own.
At the story’s close, the villagers of Anatevka are forced to leave their homes, and even the rigid practices that have guided everyday life begin to crumble.
“We have a large cast, and I have come to love my work and the people in the company,” Johnson said.
Robert L. Summers II is stepping into the role of Tevye.
Some of his favorite roles are Lawrence in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” Leonard in “Seminar,” Henry II in “The Lion in Winter” and, most important, Tevye, for the third time.
Jennie Hollander is playing the role of Tevye’s wife, Golde, on this national tour.
After 25 years in the television industry, she returned to the stage. Her television career highlights include an Emmy nomination, a Clio Award, 600 national commercials and long-running roles on daytime dramas.
Danny Bowman portrays the Fiddler and Tevye’s conscience.
His favorite credits include the world premiere musical of “Joe Versus the Volcano” in San Diego.
Johnson sees the tour as an opportunity to gain experience, and says it is a wonderful addition to her resume.
“My family was able to see the production, and that was very special,” she said. “My parents always have been supportive and told me to go for my dreams, which I’m doing.”
If you go ...
What: “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: Available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the box office or by calling 269-7200, (800) 846-2787 or visiting www.upjarts.org.
Cost: $39, $43 and $48.