Eddie Mekka stars as Tevye in GLMT’s Fiddler on the Roof June 27-29 in Lowell
Eddie Mekka stars as Tevye in GLMT's Fiddler on the Roof June 27-29 in Lowell

Eddie Mekka is one of those guys who makes you laugh the minute he opens his mouth.

Full of zest and energy, the veteran song-and-dance man did that when he called last week, out of the blue, to talk about show biz, his Worcester roots and starring as Tevye, the beleaguered milkman, in the Greater Lowell Music Theatre's new production of Fiddler on the Roof.

Performances are Friday and Saturday, June 27-28, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 29, at 2 p.m., in Durgin Hall on the UMass Lowell South campus.

"I was watching Bonanza here at the hotel and figured 'why not call,' " quipped Mekka, who's best-known for playing Carmine Ragusa -- the Big Ragu -- Shirley's (Cindy Willams) tap-dancing boyfriend on the classic sitcom Laverne and Shirley from 1976-1983.

The son of Mariam and Vaughn Mekjian, Mekka, who turns 62 on June 14, always loved performing.

"I was going to the Boston Conservatory and wanted to get into the union (Actors Equity). And they told me I needed a picture and a resume, so I got into some shows at the old Chateau de Ville nightclubs and did Promises, Promises. I actually was one of the bottle dancers in Fiddler back then," Mekka recalled.

In the early '70s, he headed the Worcester County Light Opera, teaching kids to sing, and performed on Broadway in The Lieutenant, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.

When he landed the role of Carmine, he "sang and danced and danced and sang" for seven years, carving his name into sitcom immortality.


"Carmine loved to dance, but he was like Gene Kelly, always trying for perfection. He was no Fred Astaire, who was perfect," said Mekka.

Along the way, he forged a strong friendship with Cindy Williams and has appeared with her in several shows, including a national tour of Grease, as well as a production of GLMT artistic director Jack Neary's play Kong's Night Out in Michigan, which Neary directed.

"I liked Jack right away, since the first time I met him he had a Red Sox cap on. We bonded right away - two guys from Massachusetts who are Sox fans," said Mekka.

Mekka has played Tevye numerous times over the years, including opposite Sally Struthers in an Ogunquit Playhouse production. But he relishes the role and has no trouble keeping it fresh.

"Each time it's a new cast, a new Golde. And I go in knowing my lines and have a great time," he said.

He honed Tevye's Jewish accent listening to and emulating legendary comic Jackie Mason. And he loves the fact that there is humor and pathos in the character, something that allows him to turn people's emotions on and off when he does the role.

Working with Neary again, as well as music director Leon Grande is a joy, said Mekka.

And, while he loves being recognized for his signature role of Carmine, he doesn't appreciate being compared to a couple of other funny song and dance men -- Nathan Lane and Tony Danza.

"I hate it when people tell me I could be another Nathan or Tony. Hey, I taught them," he says.

Mekka and others from the cast of Fiddler on the Roof will give a sneak preview of the show at the Whistler House Museum of Art's Spring Interlude The Art of Film party on Friday, June 13, at the Whistler House, 243 Worthen St., Lowell. Visit whistlerhouse.org for details.

The award-winning comedy Cat Scratch will be shown on June 19 at Mill No. 5
The award-winning comedy Cat Scratch will be shown on June 19 at Mill No. 5

Tickets to Fiddler on the Roof are $20, $25 and $30 at glmt.org or call 978-319-8867.

On the marquee

Lydia Gaston is Bloody Mary in Reagle’s, production of South Pacific June 12-22
Lydia Gaston is Bloody Mary in Reagle's, production of South Pacific June 12-22
  • FILM FEST: Image Theater presents Mill City Shorts, an evening of original, locally-made short films on Thursday, June 19, at 7 p.m. at Mill No. 5, 250 Jackson St., Lowell. A variety of short films, some only three minutes in length, will be shown. Filmmakers include Christian DeRezendes, Marcia Goetsch, Richard Ballon, Oliver Horowitz, Michael Manor, Ainslie Henderson, Tim LaBonte, Adam Dusenberry and Michael Flynn. $5 at the door. Free popcorn served. Visit imagetheater.com for details.
  • SOME ENCHANTED EVENING: Broadway veteran Lydia Gaston headlines an all-star cast in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, opening the company's 46th summer season in Waltham June 12-22. The musical classic delves into Navy life set against the backdrop of a lush tropical island during World War II. Considered radical for its depiction of cross-cultural marriage when it premiered in 1949, it features such classic songs as "Some Enchanted Evening," "There is Nothing Like a Dame" and "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair." Tickets $35-$63 with discounts for seniors and youth. Call 781-891-5600, visit box office at 617 Lexington St., Waltham, or online at reaglemusictheatre.com.
  • WEEKEND STAGES: Lowell's own GS4, a barbershop quartet affiliated with the Gentlemen Songsters Barbershop Chorus, perform in the Spotlight Playhouse production of The Music Man, being presented June 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7 p.m., and June 22 at 3 p.m., at Haverhill High School. Chorus members include Paul Beausoleil, Dracut; Dan Washington, Lawrence; and Steve Horhota and Geoffrey Bird, Haverhill. Visit SpotlightPlayhouse.org for tickets... Menopause The Musical, one of the biggest Boston and touring shows in the past, returns to the region with performances June 12-29 at the Stoneham Theatre, 329 Main St., Stoneham. The musical parody, celebrating "the change," is staged to classic tunes from the '60s-'80s and takes place in a department store, where four women with nothing in common bond over hot flashes, forgetfulness, mood swings and more. Local favorite Kathy St. George appears as the Soa Star. Tickets $50-$65 at 781-279-2200 or stonehamtheatre.org.

Nancye Tuttle's email is nancyedt@verizon.net.