Memories of Melody Top: Remembering Milwaukee’s Summer Stock Theatre

A classic musical that needs no introduction, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF was successfully produced for the second time during Melody Top's 1977 summer season. Annie Bruskiewitz, who co-designed this production's costumes with Jan Valentine, shared the dramatic pictures on this page. An unexpected event happened at the Top on September 8, 1977, when Giorgio Tozzi shared the news that Zero Mostel – who originated the role of Tevye on Broadway – died that evening. Tozzi's eloquent speech to the crowd was captured on audiotape, which has been digitized and posted below.

Photos from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Aug. 30 – Sept. 11, 1977

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Top Bows with FIDDLER That Plucks at Heart

By Jay Joslyn, the Milwaukee Sentinel, August 31, 1977

It is good that the production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF that opened Tuesday night at Melody Top Theatre is the last show of the season. It would be highly unlikely that the effort could be topped.

The Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick adaptation of Sholem Aleichem's Anatevka stories has become a classic of the American musical theater, but that doesn't mean that FIDDLER must be handled with any kind of stuffy pretension.

Certainly the production staged here by director-designer Stuart Bishop is alive and lively with just the kind of simple directness the musical demands.

Although there is a solid ethnic base to the tale, anyone who recognizes the existence of an all-powerful being is a Tevye with an empathy for everyone in his pre-Revolutionary Russian village.

The Melody Top's Tevye is Giorgio Tozzi, the warm-voiced Metropolitan Opera basso. He is a fine actor, obviously a gentle and good man who keeps the beautifully human happenings well in his orbit.

The best moments of the show are always the ensembles and this production is no exception on that score. Music director Donald Yap, with his Middle Eastern-influenced orchestra in the pit, has shaped a good-sounding chorus of singers, and James Smock has drilled the company well in the all-important Jerome Robbins movements.

A stage property that has been placed on display as often as FIDDLER makes any other production liable to closer scrutiny than a more unfamiliar work. In most of the major facets of the show, this production passes the scrutiny. However, the fabulous nightmare scene ("Tevye's Dream") is sorrily missed.

The drawing power of FIDDLER can be seen in the fact that the Melody Top has sold all but seven of its 34,500 seats for the run. It is a good way to end a credible season.


Three amazing costumes were recorded for posterity and provided by Annie Bruskiewitz: Cris Groenendaal dressed for the wedding scene (left) and for his character of Moishe, the Cobbler (center); Kurt Ida in full character as the Fiddler (right). Original photographs by Lorry Lesener.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Cast of Characters

The Fiddler:Kurt Ida
Tevye, the Dairyman:Giorgio Tozzi
Golde, His Wife:Susan Willis
Tzeitel, His Daughter:Kathy Taylor
Hodel, His Daughter:Marianne Challis
Chava, His Daughter:Ruth Anne McCoy
Shprintze, His Daughter:Lori Siegel
Bielke, His Daughter:Stefani Kracht
Yente, the Matchmaker:Dorsey Vogt
Motel, the Tailor:Frank Root
Perchik, the Student:Kevin Daly
Lazar Wolf, the Butcher:Rod MacDonald
Mordcha, the Innkeeper:Tom Zinos
Rabbi:Warren Richman
Mendel, His Son:Gary Barker
Avram, the Bookseller:Robert Frisch
Nachum, the Beggar:Clyde Laurents
Constable:Douglas Mellor
Fyedka:Joe Billone
Shandel, Motel's Mother:Mib Bramlette
Shloime, the Bagel Man:Eddie Dudek
Chaim, the Fishmonger:Rudy Hogenmiller
Mirala:Judith Ann Conte
Rivka:Jeanne Krempp
Anya:Nancy McCloud
Riana:Jan Wahl
Moishe, the Cobbler:Cris Groenendaal
Yussel, the Hatmaker:Dan Webber

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