House Hunters International: the Russian Peasant Edition
Like many of us when it comes to real estate, Tevye the milkman dreams big. He fantasizes about living in a home with “one long staircase just going up, and one even longer coming down.” And who can blame him? In “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye’s family of seven, plus a cow, is crammed into a far too cozy Anatevka fixer-upper.
“If I Were a Rich Man,” one of “Fiddler’s” most beloved tunes, offers a specific wish list for a house (rooms by the dozen, real wooden floors, a fine tin roof) that would have the most seasoned Realtor scouring the Multiple Listing Service for possibilities. Yes, Tevye sings that he plans to build this large and impressive edifice by himself, but why not skip the added timeline of a custom job and see what’s on the market instead?
In honor of CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s new production of the stalwart Broadway classic, then, The Munro Review offered to do a little matchmaking of its own. Why should Yente get all the fun? We arranged to connect Tevye (who’d love for each of those five daughters to get her own bedroom) with a musical-theater-loving real estate professional, Clovis-based Adam Kitt (he calls himself “The Singing Realtor”), on a house hunt.
The listing Kitt found is a whopper: 5,697 square feet on DeWolf Avenue, just off Highway 168. It’s an expansive five-bedroom, four-bathroom home on an 80,000 square feet lot with swimming pool, formal gardens, koi pond and numerous outbuildings. Let’s tag along and see how the showing goes.
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Tevye, sporting a bushy beard and a peasant-style cap, stands in front of the house and admires the handsome front yard and the roofline (it includes a turret-like structure). It isn’t tin but even better. Quite the rich man’s house, it would seem. But then there are the pesky details in that song. Tevye is quite clear: He wants a house with rooms by the dozen “right in the center of the town.”
By this point, Kitt has taken his client into the home’s formal entryway. And it’s time for him to explain one of the fundamentals of real estate.
“You make a list,” he tells Tevye. “On one side you put your wants when it comes to a house, which are maybe 15 things. And on the other you put your needs, which maybe are only four. You tackle the needs, and try to get you as many wants as possible. There’s no perfect house. Ever. For anybody.”
So … on one hand, Tevye wants room for “chicks and turkeys and geese / And ducks for the town to see and hear / Squawking just as noisily as they can.” On the other hand, he wants a prime downtown location.
“You can either have the ducks and the geese, or you can be in the center of the town,” Kitt says.
We walk into the house’s massive Great Room, which includes not only a wooden floor but room for multiple couches, a bar area bigger than some saloons I’ve seen and a casual dining area, one of three locations in the main house where a family could break bread together. I ask Tevye if this one room is bigger than his current Anatevka property.
“I live in a shack that is smaller than this,” he says, pointing to the much smaller informal dining room next to the Great Room.
Next on the tour: the formal dining room, which is adjacent to the formal sitting/fireplace room. This part of the house is particularly fancy, with crown molding, Craftsman-era workmanship and high-end wood detailing throughout, Kitt points out.
The laundry room comes with an adjacent three-quarter bathroom. “Just in case you need to shower while doing your laundry,” Kitt tells Tevye.
We then explain washing machines to Tevye.
“Sounds pretty good to me,” he says.
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Tevye’s real name, by the way, is Darren Tharp, known for such roles as Marcellus in CenterStage’s “Music Man” and Max Bialystock in Good Company’s “The Producers.” Tharp has been a lot more selective about his community theater acting in recent years, stepping back to start a family and “raise my little ones. That has kind of consumed my life more recently in the last seven years: playing the role of a dad. It’s been the best role of my life.”
His youngest, Madeline, is 3. June is 8. Carlos is 11. And his oldest, Alyssa, is 17, getting ready to go off to college next year. (Tharp is already drawing parallels between having to see her off and the moment in the show when Tevye bids adieu to Tzeitel, his oldest daughter. He’s already choking up during rehearsals.)
When the opportunity to play Tevye came along, he couldn’t pass it up. Now that he’s 40, and with dad experience under his belt, he felt it was time. “I’ve been kind of waiting for the right time and venue,” he tells me in a separate interview. “I am on the younger side of the Tevyes, but I also understand the role better now, having a family.”
Tharp has been in “Fiddler” before, in 1997, when he played Perchik in a Good Company Players production. There he played opposite Dan Pessano as Tevye, one of the actor’s most beloved roles. Tharp feels as if he learned about the character in the presence of a master. At the same time, he wants to put his own spin on on the role.
“I want to bring passion and love to Tevye on stage. There are points where he’s loud and boisterous, but there are also soft moments. I hope people experience him like it’s brand new for them.”
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About that staircase. The house does have one. But only one. Remember, Tevye, what you just learned about balancing wants and needs?
We walk up the stairs, which lead to an expansive “game room.” Tevye has to be filled in on the concept. It’s so big you could fit a small bowling alley up here.
On the way back down, Kitt offers a nice spin: “When you look down the staircase it does look longer going down than going up.”
He knows how to sell ‘em.
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A bit more, if you will, on our real-estate agent: Kitt really is a singing Realtor. He conducts two a Cappella choruses in the area (and, in fact, is singing in the choir of “Composer Showcase” that will be performed Saturday, July 15, at Community United Church of Christ).
And he has a strong CenterStage connection. In the coming holiday season, he’ll appear in the company’s production of “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings,” which opens Nov. 30.
He would have loved to have been in “Fiddler,” but an important family vacation — a chance to hear his daughter sing in a choir at New York’s Carnegie Hall — took precedence. But he’ll be there in the audience to catch Tharp’s performance.
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We take a quick spin through the large kitchen, which Tevye’s wife, Golde, would likely be impressed with. This is where she can “scream at the servants day and night.” We also introduce Tevye to the concept of refrigeration (“It keeps things cold!” Kitt tells the suspicious dairyman). Then come the bedrooms.
The master suite is so big it’s almost funny. You could fit two king-size bedroom suites in here and still have room left over for a drum circle. Adjacent is a private hot tub with its own outdoor enclosure. The master bath features both a shower and bathtub. Kitt climbs into the tub to demonstrate.
The other bedrooms are on the other side of the house. There are four of them, and each pair share “Jack and Jill” bathrooms. Which means that four of Tevye’s daughters will each get their own sinks, the No. 1 criteria for keeping the peace in a household with teenage girls.
That leaves a fifth daughter without her own bedroom. But never fear, Kitt says: The house also has a good-sized office. It isn’t officially a bedroom because it doesn’t have a closet, but it will do in a pinch. Besides, Tevye doesn’t have that much paperwork to deal with, anyway. And he always has the game room as a man cave.
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Tharp is on the road a lot these days as a salesman for Central Sanitary Supply. That’s another reason he’s cut back on his community theater activities in recent years. But the shorter run of “Fiddler” for CenterStage — there are only eight performances — made it an easier project for him.
Still, it’s been taking a lot out of him.
The character of Max in “The Producers” is one of Broadway’s most demanding roles. But Tevye ranks up there, too.
“Max was so physically and vocally demanding,” he says. “This one is, too, but it also adds that total emotional side. At the beginning of the play, Tevye is in good spirits, and by the end of the show, he’s drained. So am I.”
Veteran director Scott Hancock is offering a classic take on the tale, Tharp says, but the scenic design, which involves a large platform built into the center of the stage, adds a modern touch. “I really appreciate the fact he’s bringing that little bit of newness to it,” Tharp says. “Even though it is difficult to haul Tevye’s cart up the ramp.”
He talked with Pessano a few weeks ago about Tevye. The veteran director and actor’s observation was simple: “You’re going to go through all this, and then suddenly it will be over. You’re going to wish you had more time with him.”
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It’s time to see where all those chickens and turkeys and geese are going to live. We tromp outside into the heat and experience the true dazzle of the house: its grounds. Tevye marvels at the hundreds of koi in the pond, standing on the Japanese-inspired bridge overhead. We wander to the back of the property to find a free-standing RV garage big enough for a double-decker imperial Russian carriage and entire team of horses. (Tevye thinks it might be good to use as a barn instead.) We marvel at the pool house, which includes another bar — a nice place to toast “L’Chaim” — and wander the gardens.
Then we talk price. The property is listed at $980,000. We convert that to Russian currency for Tevye. The price is a mere 119,276,268 rubles.
Does he want to make an offer?
He thinks for a moment, then smiles. When you’re dreaming in “Fiddler on the Roof,” anything is possible. “Let me have a little talk with God,” he says.
“Fiddler on the Roof,” opens 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13. Runs through July 22. Mercedes Edwards Theatre, 902 5th St., Clovis. $20, $18 students and seniors.
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