PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Actor Michael C. Bernardi grew up with "Fiddler On The Roof" in his blood. His late father, Herschel Bernardi, played the title role of Tevye nearly 50 years ago and Bernardi said there's been a fair amount of cheek pinching of late by older theater goers who remember his dad and say he looks (and acts) just like him.
The SUNY Purchase grad didn't know his father well - he died when he was two -- but feels a special bonding with his legacy through this role. Bernardi plays Mordcha, the innkeeper six nights a week on Broadway and also serves as the understudy for Tevya.
He said the meaning of the role -- aside from the familial connection -- is important for him because of all that's going on in the world. "The story is ultimately about displaced people and xenophobia and if you turn on the news, that's all that you see now," he said.
It's also his Broadway debut and, needless, to say, a dream come true. Though he returned home to his native Los Angeles post college graduation and played in a variety of low budget movies (think horror films) and other acting gigs, being on Broadway was always a goal.
It's something he said SUNY Purchase worked hard to prepare him for. "The theater program there was unbelievable and amazing," he said. "There's something about being a student in that program that really opens you up."
As for Fiddler, he hopes to stay with the show for as long as that option is available. "It's so much more than just a job for me," said Bernardi. "It really connects me to my father, my grandparents who were in the Yiddish theater, and to my ancestors back in the shtetl."