In the award-winning musical Fiddler on the Roof, Yente the matchmaker sets out to find suitable mates for the five daughters of poor milkman Tevye and his wife Golde. For five couples in McKinney Summer Musicals’ cast and crew, music turned out to be the ultimate matchmaker. Their stories tell how a shared passion for their art brought them together and continues to sustain their relationships.
Beverly and Steve Garms
Beverly Garms, MSM’s rehearsal accompanist, and her husband Steve, MSM’s Music Director/Orchestra Conductor, began their musical journey together as students majoring in music education at West Texas State A&M University. As a transfer student from Eastern New Mexico University, Steve immediately started making his mark as President of the WT Chorale, lead performer in musicals, opera and the semi-professional production of the Paul Green outdoor musical drama Texas. Bev and her roommate had a bet to see who would get the first date with the “new guy in choir.” After a performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Steve played a lead and Bev sang in the chorus, Steve invited Bev on their first “date” for pie and coffee at a local café According to Steve, “there is still some question about whether she won or lost the bet!” One year later, they were married and began their journey of a lifetime in music making.
Kevyn Robertson, MSM’s Director/Choreographer, met her husband Rick, President of the MSM Board of Directors, in the fall of 1972, when Rick was in his second year of Longhorn Singers (LHS) at UT-Austin, Kevyn her first. They were both college sophomores. According to Kevyn, “We had been eyeing each other for a couple of months (altos on the front left row, basses on the back right – good sightline) but never got a chance to meet after choir because I had to leave choir early for a theater department class each time the choir met. We actually met in early December at a LHS concert, rounding a corner at the same time and literally coming face to face with each other. Rick said, ‘Hi, Kevyn’, and I said, ‘Hi, Rick’ ... and we both smiled, realizing we knew each other's names.” Over Christmas break, Rick asked Kevyn out for the first time to go see a movie. ... which was Fiddler on the Roof. But Kevyn couldn't go! They actually didn't have their first date until February 1973 since UT classes were delayed a week in January 1973 because of "fuel shortages". Rick's barbershop quartet, the 40 Acre 4, was organized during the Longhorn Singer days, and the quartet still sings together. In fact, the 40 Acre 4 was MSM's barbershop quartet in its 2008 production of The Music Man.
Noelle and Thom Chesney
Noelle Chesney, MSM’s Assistant Director/Vocal Coach, and her husband Thom, an avid MSM supporter and volunteer, met at a Whitman College new faculty dinner. Noelle recalls, “Just as Thom got his nametag and was looking around for a place to sit, I recognized his name and introduced myself. A few weeks earlier, I had performed a program in Clemson, South Carolina and a woman from the audience told me to look him up when I arrived in Walla Walla, Washington. I did not know her name, and we were actually married for several years before we ever figured out who our matchmaker was.” There have been many more musical moments in their lives together. One St. Patrick’s Day, Thom, who is Irish, serenaded Noelle with folk songs and harmonica in her living room. He also attended many of her recitals, shows, and concerts, and they have performed together in a Rossini mass, as well as other choral works. With his poetry writing background, Thom composes little songs for their kids all the time – some of which they might sing to their own kids someday. Noelle and Thom’s daughter Ellen is also a veteran MSM performer.
Bonnie and Brian Leicht
Bonnie Leicht is playing Fruma-Sarah, and her husband Brian is playing the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof, the second MSM production in which they have appeared – along with their three sons! They met when Brian, the Singles Pastor at their church, asked Bonnie to lead the worship music for a Singles meeting. “His usual worship team couldn't be there and someone had referred me to him,” says Bonnie. Later, Bonnie was asked to transcribe music for a musical someone in the church had written and recorded. Brian volunteered to help her. They agreed that the musical was not going to work at all, but they had enjoyed working together so much that they started dating. Bonnie remembers, “On our first date, Brian played Bernstein's ‘Chichester Psalms’ in the car and talked about why he loved them. I thought to myself ... ’THIS IS THE ONE!’ When we had been dating about nine months a mutual friend asked us to sing, ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ from Fiddler in her wedding. At our wedding, in addition to a brass quintet, we had seven trumpets in the balcony with timpani. At the reception, more than one person said, ‘We enjoyed the concert ... oh did you get married too?’ ”
Erin Crossley, who is playing Tevye’s daughter Chava, and her husband Mitch, who will be serving as rail chief behind the scenes, both attended Plano Senior High, where they shared a passion for musical theater. Erin remembers, “I saw Mitch walking between history classes and noticed we were both wearing the same bright orange T-shirt from our Rhinoceros production. He had been working tech on the show, and I was an actor. Later, in theater class, we did a ballroom dance activity, and I made him dance with me (even though he had his eyes on another girl!) I talked on and on; he was quiet. I left thinking there was something special about him. We went to theater camp shortly after that in West Texas and did a production of Noises Off together. We started hanging out, and despite my reluctance, he kept pressing for a dating relationship. Eight years later, I’m so glad he did!” Erin and Mitch both attended Oklahoma City University for theater and they still do plays together.
All five happy couples recently took time from their busy rehearsal schedules to answer a few questions about their lives and love.
Q: In what ways are the themes of FOTR (family, tradition, friendship) important in your life?
• Beverly and Steve: We both grew up in families that had a strong TRADITION of participation in church and school music. Steve’s dad played mandolin and sang; his younger sister sang in high school and college; his youngest brother was a trumpet player in high school. Bev’s mom was a pianist (originally trained by a traveling piano teacher) and her father sang in the church choir. Bev, her brother, sister and subsequently her brother-in-law, all pursued and served as choral directors in middle schools and high schools in Texas. As a family, the Garms have one son Braxton who grew up napping under the piano as Bev accompanied church choir rehearsal. Today, Braxton plays guitar in the praise band at his church. The circle draws to completion as Beverly introduces her granddaughters to the piano. Musical families and a large extended family of musician friends have indeed forged a tradition of music that has shaped their past, the present, and the future.
Kevyn and Rick Robertson
• Kevyn and Rick: We remain the best of friends, love our family, and those who know us have always said we are pretty traditional. We consider that a good thing!
• Noelle and Thom: Our children spend as much time with us and their extended family as possible. We are blessed to have three grandparents, a great grandmother, and an uncle within the Metroplex, which allows for frequent gatherings and the passing along of family stories, favorite meals, etc.
• Bonnie and Brian: Because our faith is central to our lives, we place a high value on family, tradition, and friendship. We have chosen to homeschool our three boys to strengthen our family bonds. This is the second musical with MSM that all five of us have participated in!
• Erin and Mitch: We both share values that center on family, love, and faith. We started our relationship as a friendship, which I have always said I feel created a very firm foundation. Family and each other come first!
Q: Which song from Fiddler best describes your marriage? Why?
• Beverly and Steve: How about two favorites? “Sunrise, Sunset” stirs memories of watching our son pledge his lifetime love to his new bride and stirs memories of sharing music with an extended musical family of friends, colleagues and 40+ years’ worth of students. “Sabbath Prayer” reminds us of the importance of our heritage of faith as Christ followers and the importance of passing those truths to both our family and extended family of friends.
• Kevyn and Rick: "Do You Love Me?" Rick sang it to Kevyn in August 1973 after Kevyn had just finished being in Dallas Summer Musicals' production of Fiddler on the Roof starring Herschel Bernardi. Kevyn answered "Yes", quickly, not taking as long to answer as Golde does in the song.
• Noelle and Thom: Without a doubt: “Matchmaker”. Without ours, I wouldn’t be writing these responses right now.
• Bonnie and Brian: "Miracle of Miracles" We both have a list of small miracles that God did in getting us together and we continue to see His work in our lives.
• Erin and Mitch: "Miracle of Miracles". It took us a long time to officially date. Mitch will tell you that was my fault. I know he probably felt like it was a miracle when I finally said yes to dating – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Q: Which Fiddler characters are most like you and your spouse? Why?
• Beverly and Steve: Anyone who has spent more than 30 minutes in our presence would agree with us in naming Tevye and Golde as the characters that are the most like us! Anytime you get two highly trained and opinionated musicians together, the potential for dissonance is not far away! However, not unlike Tevye and Golde, we dismiss the unimportant day-to-day “moments” and focus on a life of “family, tradition, and friendship.”
Erin and Mitch Crossley
• Kevyn and Rick: Tevye (husband, dad, provider, sense of humor); Kevyn: Hodel (Hodel's song "Far From the Home I Love" could have been spoken/sung by Kevyn in 1973.)
• Noelle and Thom: I see bits and pieces of Thom and I in almost all of the Fiddler characters: Tevye and Golde; Tzietel and Motel; Hodel and Perchick; even Avram, the bookkeeper. Thom reads everything he can find, and always knows what’s going on in the world! Perhaps that one of the reasons Fiddler has endured for so many years. No matter who you are or where you live, the story and the characters strike a familiar chord.
• Bonnie and Brian: I, Bonnie, think we are most like Motel and Tzeitel. I married Brian, a poor, penniless, Singles Director. We were united by our love and faith without much of a prospect of ever making much money. Brian thinks of himself more like Tevye. Faith and tradition are priorities and he doesn't enjoy the passing of time or the passing away of traditions.
• Erin and Mitch: Probably Tzeitel and Motel – “a perfect fit, made to measure”, and we grew up together from juniors in high school to today – as people and in love!
Fiddler on the Roof opens July 13 at McKinney North High School Theater. Tickets can be purchased online at mckinneysummermusicals.com, or at McKinney Office Supply and the McKinney Chamber of Commerce.
Fiddler on the Roof is presented through special arrangement with Music Theater International (MTI).