The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 9, 2013

A family affair | Four sets of parents/offsprings in cast of 'Fiddler on the Roof'

There will be no fiddling around when it comes to this musical.

Performances of “Fiddler on the Roof” will bring matchmaking and tradition to the area from June 20 through July 6 at Cresson Lake Playhouse, 279 Shapiro Road, Loretto.

Curtain times will be at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

The production is being directed by the playhouse’s artistic director Marina Johnson, with Patricia Jimenez as music director, Gabbi Hertzog as stage manager and Chelsea Moses as choreographer.

This will be the second time Johnson has directed at the playhouse. The first time was “The Wizard of Oz” in 2011.

After directing two classic musicals at the playhouse, Johnson will be leaving the area to work on her master’s degree in fine arts with an emphasis on directing at the University of Iowa.

The family theme of “Fiddler on the Roof” will carry over into the cast with four sets of a parent and their offspring performing.

Father and daughter Mike and Regan Hajjar of Ebensburg will portray the constable and

Shprintze, one of Tevye’s daughters.

Mother and son Ellie and Jake Herbster of Altoona will portray Grandma Tzeitel and Perchik, the student.

Mother and daughter Alison and Lydia McElheny of Cresson will perform in the ensemble.

The four set of family togetherness involves Johnson.

She is directing her dad, the Rev. George Johnson of Johnstown, in the lead role of Tevye.

“This is a role he always wanted to play,” Marina Johnson said.

“After I heard I was chosen as director and he was going to audition, I was nervous. I didn’t want there to be a conflict of interest.

“I told them to tell me who they wanted for the lead role without telling them about Dad,” she said. “He was their immediate pick.”

The Rev. George Johnson had performed in high school and college plays and currently sings and plays piano with the band Swing City.

His daughter knew that, since he was easygoing, he would be easy to work with if he was chosen to play Tevye.

“When I give a direction, he says OK and does it,” Marina Johnson said. “We work well together, and the whole cast likes him.”

The Rev. George Johnson never thought he would get the role and believes that this is a dream come true in an unexpected way.

“I’ve been familiar with ‘Fiddler’ for a long time,” he said. “I thought the role would be a good one to do. Tevye is a complex character, a man who seems to be pious yet has to deal with the circumstances of life.”

Johnson has much praise for Marina, whom he calls his multi-talented daughter.

“She’s spent a lot of time studying musical theater and has moved to directing,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed spending time with her.

“A director’s job is doing a million different things. She has to be aware of where everyone is, how everyone should interact and how the audience is seeing the interaction. It’s automatic and natural at the same time.”

Marina Johnson has discovered that being a director is much the same as her role as artistic director.

She must make sure every aspect of the production goes smoothly and is coordinated, with everyone in communication and everything going well for them and the audience.

“When the production is done, everyone knows the director is the director,” the Rev. George Johnson said.

“I automatically look into her eyes and know where I should and shouldn’t be.”

The large cast of the original production has been downsized to fit onto Cresson Lake’s alley stage, with some actors playing several different roles.

“With any show at the barn, the audience is right there and loses themselves in the show,” Marina Johnson said.

Much of the original choreography has been kept, with the director using her creativity to make sure dances look good being adapted to the limited space.

“Marina understands very well the specifics of Cresson Lake staging and how to make it work,” the Rev. George Johnson said.

“We’ve had to change some things because of it, and we’re still working on it at rehearsal. We have a very good cast, and I feel blessed with the opportunity to work with such talented people.”

The rest of the cast will feature Tracey Ingold of Cresson as Golde, Tevye’s wife; Rachel Lingenfelter of Altoona as Tzeitel, the eldest daughter; Arlene Ivory of Ashville as Tevye’s daughter, Hodel; Amy Podoletz of Hollidaysburg as Tevye’s daughter, Chava; and Addie Semelsberger of Ebensburg as Tevye’s daughter, Bielke.

The townspeople will feature John O’Connor of Hollidaysburg as Lazar Wolf, the butcher; Kelly Hartman of Hollidaysburg as Yente, the village matchmaker; Dan Nackley of Hollidaysburg as the rabbi; Blake Walter of Hollidaysburg as Mordcha, the inn keeper; Francis Klisiewicz of Hollidaysburg as Motel the tailor; Jara Dorsey-Lash of Ebensburg as Fruma Sarah, the butcher’s first wife; Josh Doughty of Cresson as Avram the bookseller; Michael Hale of Ebensburg as Mendel, the rabbi’s son; and Seth Partner of Hollidaysburg as Fyedka, a young Christian man.

In addition to Alison and Lydia McElheny, the ensemble will feature Mariah Huss and Calyx Castel, both of Ebensburg; Peter Zimmerman and Sarah Lipitz, both of Hollidaysburg; Kailyn Anderson and Tailia DelGrande, both of Cresson; and D. Richard Yernaux and Luke Hrapchak, both of Johnstown.

A timeless classic, the musical score of “Fiddler on the Roof” includes “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset.”

A timeless classic

What: “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Where: Cresson Lake Playhouse, 279 Shapiro Road, Loretto.

When: June 20 through July 6.

Curtain times: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets: $17 for adults and $10 for students younger than age 18.

Information: 472-4333 or


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