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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

March 11, 2008

Heck, On Opening Night I Even Wore Tails!

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 3:37 pm

When Fiddler on the Roof first opened forty three years ago it wasn’t unusual on Broadway to see up to fifty performers on stage and it was standard practice to hear at least twenty eight musicians in the orchestra pit. Sadly, due to financial constraints over the years these numbers have been drastically reduced.  Broadway ensemble actors now typically play two and three roles in one show, sometimes more. And the orchestra of a large show such as Beauty and the Beast or Wicked may start out with fifteen to eighteen musicians, but if it settles into a long run that number is paired down once again.

So, for me to musically direct a show with such  a large cast and orchestra (over 75 performers altogether),  a show like they used to do it back-in-the-day,  was a dream I had placed on the back burner. Burner off. 

wendell.jpg Wendell Smith Conducting Fiddler on the Roof

Enter Charleston Stage’s 30th Season production of  Fiddler on the Roof. Front burner on high. We of course have seen several large casts in very recent memory (Ragtime, Gershwin at Folly, Beauty and the Beast). And Gershwin at Folly had an orchestra of twelve musicians (The other two shows, well, much less.) But as I stood there on opening night waiting to give the downbeat, waiting for the curtain to go up on forty magnificent actors, before me were the thirty five musicians of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. My dream had come true. We were about to do what Broadway hasn’t done in nearly forty years. I’ve conducted several large ensembles in my career, but none quite so elegant and lush as the CSO. As the baton dropped that night, history was made in Charleston, maybe even the world, as we bought back the beloved classic Fiddler on the Roof in all its original glory. Heck,  on opening night I even wore tails. (Wouldn’t you?)



Kudos to guest actor John O. Fennell (as Tevye) for brilliantly heading up our rag tag bunch of Anatevkeans, and director Marybeth Clark for helping to assemble an amazing cast. And special thanks to The Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Tony Pierce, Director of Artistic Operations, whose idea this was. I’m proud to have been a little part of history. I can’t wait to make history again!


Wendell Smith, 

Charleston Stage Resident Music Director

Conductor and Music Director for Fiddler on the Roof 


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