It was an odd stage-weather weekend for me: last Friday, I shivered at the Waldo while the play took place in steamy Chicago; the next night, I roasted at Georges Valley High School watching “Fiddler on the Roof,” set in chilly Russia. The GVHS cast had it worse, though, up under the lights in layered woolens and fake beards. Despite the warmth, and the fact it was their second performance of the famously long show that day, the cast brought the tiny village of Anatekva to life and sent us home humming.

“Fiddler” is filled with songs people have been humming for years, and it’s enjoyable to hear them in context. The GVHS musical pit band, led by Jo Anne Parker, is one of the area’s strongest and pulling in Waldoboro fiddler Andy Lackoff for the titular riffs paid off right from the start. The bare violin line was followed by Tyler Grant alone on stage as Tevye. Grant is a senior and this is his first big role, so his relaxed take on the famous dairyman is all the more remarkable. His singing voice is a treat, strong and clear and right on pitch.

As Grant sang about “Tradition,” the rest of the cast entered via the aisles, grape-vining by us at a good pace (one of the girls was chewing gum, definitely not kosher) and good volume. Volume is always an issue in the GVHS gym, where body mics prove a blessing and curse every year. This performance had its share of feedback and thunks but only once revealed backstage remarks.

The on-stage remarks and business were, for the most part, delivered well, so the warm humor in the show got out to the audience. I cracked up at the little kid a few aisles back who giggled a lot, and there was a man back there too, really letting loose. Principal Robert Beverage had encouraged us before the curtain to feel free to react, claiming “the school musical always has the nicest audience, to a fault” and people seemed to pay him heed.

Getting the funny stuff going was Morgan Hooper’s Yente the Matchmaker, whose deft stealing of dinner rolls was not missed by the aforementioned kid. Mackenzie Bartlett’s Golde was a tough cookie from the get go (love the curse spitting), which made the times Tevye got around her rule, and her heart, all the more effective. The Czar is showing anti-Semitic tendencies but this couple’s biggest concern is finding husbands for their daughters, of which they have five.

The oldest three delivered a fine rendition of “Matchmaker,” dancing with mops (one of which poofed dust) and each other. Anna Sanborn (Tzeitel), Emilee Cross (Hodel) and Kristen Sawyer (Chava) all have strong voices and gave distinct personalities to these young women, born to tradition but destined for the future. Watching them find their loves even as the world around them changes is what drives “Fiddler,” while watching their father attempt to put on the brakes adds both humor and heartache to the experience.

The suitors are not what Tevye and his wife had in mind. First there is the butcher Lazar Wolfe, an older but rich fellow given easy stage presence by Nick Smith. Being a rich man is, of course, a famous dream of Tevye’s, but this match is not to be. Before that becomes apparent, though, there is a lively scene at the local inn where congratulations become an “Anatevka’s Best Dance Crew” showdown between the village’s Jewish men and Russian soldiers.

No, Hodel is in love with a poor man. Shane Lavoie takes Motel the Tailor from schlemazel to mensch; his song on winning Tzeitel was sweet and energetic. And the scene where Tevye gets Golde to come around to breaking the first engagement was terrific — Ariana Wadsworth set things up as one ghost, and Abigayle Haynes (with the help of an uncredited strong man) bowled the house over as the vengeful Frumma Sarah.

The first half of “Fiddler” ends with the wedding of Tzeitel and Motel and it was quite a scene. Alex Wallace, as the fluty-voiced and ancient rabbi, was a hoot here. Stealing the spotlight as they always do were the bottle dancers, a brave quartet of guys who balance half-filled wine bottles on their hats and engage in fancy footwork. I got kick out of how they demonstrated to us there was nothing connecting the bottles to the hats, and the house went wild when they did that diagonal knee drag at the end.

This being an Orthodox community, the men and women dance separately – and the guys in this show do a lot of dancing, hurrah! Things change at the wedding, though, when Perchik, the student revolutionary who has been staying at Tevye’s house, grabs Hodel and does this show’s version of the Shipoopie. Yes, Hodel is the next to fall. Josh Bedell has the right intellectual fervor for Perchik and, I think, a real beard. Beards are a big deal in this play and the crop of latex/stage wool examples sported by Tevye’s crowd, as well as the weathered huts and toppling chimneys, are a credit to art director Su Johnson and her student crew (including Gabrielle Poor, who got left off the program).

Tradition-clinging Tevye can only weather so much so when Chava falls in love with a Russian, he sends her packing. Dakota Smith needs to speak up as Fyedka, but he’s got the right look. Things are not looking good for the Jews of Anatevka, however, or anywhere else in Russia. Hodel heads to Siberia to be with the imprisoned Perchik; Cross and Grant’s scene at the train station was heartfelt and caused a woman behind me to whisper “oh, that’s so sad!” at its conclusion.

Unlike most musicals, there is no clear happy ending to “Fiddler on the Roof.” All the villagers we have grown to enjoy must scatter and we know that the places they are heading — New York, Chicago, Jerusalem, Krakow — will be changed by their arrival. They will be changed to, as will be the traditions Tevye has been struggling to uphold. GVHS’ “Fiddler,” directed by Rebecca Leonard, packs a lot of humanity into a few hours and is a match worth making.

Final performances are Thursday and Friday, March 25 and 26, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, March 27 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $9, $8 for age 65 and older; and $6 for children and K-12 students. For ticket reservations, call 354-6351 and leave a message, which will be returned. Tickets also are available at the gymnasium doors, which open an hour before performances.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.