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NIU alumnus dances his way to principal acting role and cast album

September 9, 2019

James Monroe Števko, Chicago native and graduate of NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance, is a featured principal on the upcoming original cast album of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. He originated the role of Mendl, under the direction of Tony, Oscar and Golden Globe winner, Joel Grey. The album is produced by Grammy nominated producer Rob Sher of Time Life/Warner Bros and is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

James StevkoThis presentation is a New York Times Critic’s Pick, produced by Tony Award winner Hal Luftig. This is the first staging in the US after its debut in Israel 40 years ago. The show went on to win Drama Desk for Best Musical Revival and also won the Outer Critics Circle for Best Musical Revival.

Stevko is a native of Wheaton, Ill. and graduate of Glenbard South. He began dancing after enrolling at NIU with an emphasis in music education.  After graduation he went on to dance at The Metropolitan Opera, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and the Milwaukee Ballet. His Chicago include: seven seasons at the Lyric Opera of Chicago,  Joseph…Dreamcoat at Drury Lane and Oklahoma! at The Paramount. He was dubbed a “late-bloomer” by the Arlington Heights Daily Herald and has been featured in the DeKalb Daily Chronicle and Chicago Jewish Home Magazine

The production of Fiddler on the Roof opened in July 2018 at the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene to sold out audiences, requiring four extensions and culminating in a transfer to New York’s largest off-Broadway theater, Stage 42, where it recently celebrated 200 performances.

The show has caught the attention of celebrities, such as: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhal, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, Jerry Seinfeld, Patti Lupone, Bernadette Peters, and most recently, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kate McKinnon.

The musical was originally produced by Broadway legend, Hal Prince, in 1964. It opened to rave reviews and was the longest running musical of its time.  Prince’s visited the revival of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish and commented, “This is good as Fiddler will ever be.” The production will be staged in Australia in 2020 to tour both Sydney and Melbourne.

“When I got the offer for Mendl I wasn’t aware of what a large role it was,” Stevko said.” After reading the script I was nervous, especially to be performing such a large acting role, in a foreign language under the direction of a Broadway legend. But the on-the-job experience I got with Joel Grey will always be a career highlight.”

James is a sought after teacher throughout the United States and has been featured in Dance Teacher Magazine and Dance Informa. He currently teaches at Ballet and Body on the Upper East Side of New York.