WATERVILLE — As if taking a line from the song “Matchmaker” that they were singing from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” the 17 girls and young women who auditioned for singing roles today appeared to be nervous — even terrified.

“You saw them all get nervous — anybody coming for an audition would be,” said Charles Milazzo of North Wayne, musical director for “Fiddler,” which opens at the Waterville Opera House Nov. 8. “How would you like to come here and do a song by yourself?”

The show is directed by Debra Susi of Pittsfield.

The girls and young women auditioning today ranged in age from 8 or 9 to their early 20s. They were trying out for parts as the daughters of Tevye, a Russian Jew who strives to raise his five daughters in the traditional way — including using a matchmaker for marriage.

“You also were a bride,” one of the daughters sings to Yenta, the matchmaker. “It’s not that I’m sentimental; it’s just that I’m terrified.”

Auditions also were for villagers and the general chorus for “Fiddler.”

When asked if the audition was terrifying, Chloe Geller, 11, of Waterville, had one word: “Yeah.”

Her father, David Geller, who had hung on every note during the audition of his daughter and her friend Corinne Rogers, also 11, admitted to a different feeling.

“I was nervous, not terrified,” Geller said.

For others, such as Katie Boston, 11, of Augusta, the ordeal was mitigated by the fact that the other girls were going through the same thing as she was today. Katie also has had stage experience in the role of Molly in “Annie” and as the understudy for the role of Jane Banks in “Mary Poppins” with the Maine State Music Theater.

“It was a little nerve-racking, but when I saw all the other girls doing it, it kind of like made me realize — it’s fine; it’s okay,” she said.

Leading up to the singing parts today, Milazzo, a retired music teacher and veteran of more than 50 musicals and “straight plays” in central Maine, led the girls through breathing exercises, sound techniques and stretching, all designed to warm up the body and the voice. Milazzo also is the conductor of the Kennebec Performing Arts Co.

“It’s how to tell the story singing,” Milazzo said to the group. “We want to see your personality — don’t worry about the notes.”

Exercises incorporated repeating tongue twisters such as “rubber baby buggy bumpers,” “she sells seashells by the seashell shore” and “toy boat.”

“I saw some very nice young talent here today,” Milazzo said. “It’s always nice to see these young kids come out and take the risk and the chance to perform and be creative. That’s what it’s all about. It’s always a fight to keep music alive in school systems.”

Milazzo said “Fiddler” is an important play because it provides a picture of Jewish traditions in Russia in the days of persecution and prejudice when people were forced to leave their homes.

“The idea of Tevye, who’s the lead in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ is raising his daughters because in those days there was always the matchmaker who matched up the girls and the guys,” he said. “One of the girls decided to do her own thing, and Tevye is always fighting his tradition with the modern world. It’s a real sense of history to let them see the trials and tribulations some folks had to go through.”

Milazzo said there will be a callback for finalists for the roles on Thursday. Other auditions for the lead adult roles and featured characters are scheduled at the Waterville Opera House Dance Studio from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday .

Golda, Tevye’s wife in the play, already has been cast, Milazzo said. Birdie Katz, of Augusta, will perform in the role. The 11-member pit orchestra also has been selected and will begin rehearsals soon, he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
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