Niagara Gazette

April 6, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: 'Fiddler' on the Island

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Show-Goers — Just before Lent, this classified ad appeared: “Fiddlers wanted, must not be afraid of heights.” That was the Parish Players’ way of seeking out some one to play — literally — the title role in the musical which open a two-weekend run next Friday at St. Stephen’s Church, 2100 Baseline Road.

Something in our Protestant hearts tells us the new Pope Francis would bless his Roman Catholic parishioners paying homage to another faith. Indeed, Buffalo IS the city in which the Jewish Repertory Theatre was born in the lobby of the Irish Classical.

“Fiddler,” inspired by a series of short stories about the trials of a threadbare Russian Jewish community, breaks more new ground for the unique Parish Players with its unprecedented five-performance-run. It’s a long ways back to the Players’ debut nearly a quarter-century ago, with one single performance of the scandalous melodrama “East Lynne,” which actually dates back to 1863.

What’s happened here is extension of the decision some 10 years ago to augment the grown-ups’ play (such as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” or “Twelve Angry Men,” or “The Odd Couple”) with a separate production for younger folks. Now, those two formats have been combined, Maura Rustowicz directing a cast of 52, aged 8 to 80. Tickets, some including dinner, will be in mighty demand and short supply. Opening Night, in fact, is already sold out.

Steve Olszewski, who bullied Doug relentlessly in “Angry Men,” plays the benign and benighted Tevye, never a wealthy man. Eileen Niland plays his beloved Golde and Grand Island High’s legendary theater director, Maggie Miller Kennedy, suits up as Grandma Tzietel. Carly Kruszona saddles the shingles as the Fiddler.

After the April 14 matinee, “Fiddler” continues April 18 to 20. To order tickets, call 465-557.

•••

Kevin Doring died last weekend. He was just 52, a classmate and fellow GIHS bandsman with our Joe. He was a terrific kid, if we may still call him that, and for a year had The Java Shop, a coffee and Internet café which simply could not survive its exorbitant rents.

Kevin took ill in Florida, too weak to endure a flight home. So several of his friends got together and drove him back to his parents, a journey of love not unlike that told in the baseball roadtrip yarn “Team Mates.” It was a measure of the affection we all felt for him, and for his devastated parents, Floyd and Chie, among the first folks we met on our arrival here.

St. Martin’s Episcopal, and then the Launch Club, overflowed Tuesday. A eulogist recalled his attending a Who concert, and how moments after Roger Daltrey rolled into “Reign O’er Me,” the clouds opened up and water poured down. It was a lot like that at St. Martin’s. Condolences hardly suffice.

Come visit.

Don’t be surprised if we’re a little “down.”

Email Polly and Doug at pollyndoug@hotmail.com.