Playbill picks: June local theater highlights

JUNE BUGS: Local theaters hit their stride as temperatures warm up. Photo by iStock

If you’re a fan of local theater, Western North Carolina offers plenty of options. Below are some highlights of productions hitting various stages across the region.

Matchmaker, matchmaker

Already in full swing, Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre’s 50th season reaches its centerpiece production with Fiddler on the Roof. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, the musical theater classic follows tradition-minded Jewish peasant Tevye as he marries off his three idealistic daughters and contends with growing antisemitism in his village.

The show runs Thursday, June 20-Sunday, June 30, at Owen Theatre on the campus of Mars Hill University. Janice Vertucci Schreiber directs this 60th-anniversary production of the beloved book by Joseph Stein, featuring music by Jerry Bock and lyrics from Sheldon Harnick. A Western North Carolina resident for the past six years, Vertucci Schreiber has a long history with the musical, which she describes as “extremely close to [her] heart.”

“As a teenager, I saw the Broadway production with a very young Bette Midler. At 29 years old, I played [village matchmaker] Yente at the Jewish Community Center in Omaha, Neb. Years later, I played Yente again at the Jenny Wiley Theatre in Prestonsburg, Ky.,” she says.

That latter production was where she met Frank Calamaro, who will be playing Tevye in the SART show — his 16th production of Fiddler on the Roof.

“I suggested he audition for this production because Frank and I did the show again at the Circa21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, Ill. But that time, I was [Tevye’s wife,] Golde,” says Vertucci Schreiber. “We have been friends now for a very long time.”

Calamaro notes that despite Fiddler’s age, in light of the ongoing Ukrainian/Russian conflict — and considering that the show’s setting, Anatevka, is currently a Ukrainian refugee village — its story is more timely now than ever.

“Tevye is truly an everyman and relatable to any parent struggling to provide for his family, keep his family safe and uphold their traditions,” Calamaro says. “Each time I perform this role, I have learned more about who Tevye really is, and having the opportunity to meet and talk with [Fiddler lyricist] Harnick about the show has given me new insight into the creators’ thoughts.”

The star is also excited to reunite with Vertucci Schreiber, whose shared history of their past productions further enhances the power of their storytelling.

“All my openings of my shows are important,” he says. “But this has added meaning because I am being directed by Janice, and it is the 50th anniversary of SART, and I am invested in celebrating this show and theater.”

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No good thing ever dies

Three decades after writer/director Frank Darabont memorably adapted the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption for the screen, the tale of wrongfully convicted felon Andy Dufresne’s odds-defying perseverance in Shawshank State Prison makes its way to the Flat Rock Playhouse stage.

This adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption by Owen O’Neil and Dave Johns runs Friday, June 14-Sunday, June 30, and features such local veterans as Scott Treadway (Warden Stammas) and Pasquale LaCorte (Brooksie).

“It’s an incredible team of actors and designers, which is always a great start. Having such great source material like the iconic movie and novella is just a wonderful and rare opportunity to imagine how to bring it all to a live theater experience,” says director Lisa K. Bryant. “All things combined, we’re having a great time putting it together and discovering how best to create another magical night of theater at FRP.”

The stars of the show agree, including Andy himself, Lawrence Street. “Lisa said a really amazing thing in the first rehearsal: ‘I don’t think any human should be judged by the worst moment of their life.’ And that sums [Shawshank Redemption] up for me,” he says.

Adds Joe Pallister, who plays fellow con Red, “A lot of this play is about hope and that it’s important not to lose hope no matter what circumstances you’re in. I think this play really tells that story well and in such a beautiful way. It’s heartbreaking.”

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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