Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-08-31



Non-binary performer Tommy Novak talks being in Lyric Opera's 'Fiddler on the Roof'
by Jerry Nunn

This article shared 530 times since Mon Sep 5, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Fiddler on the Roof is a series of stories based on Jewish life in a village that was made into a musical play in 1964. The North American premiere of a new production of this classic musical will debut Sept. 17 and run through Oct. 7 at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

After a successful 2017 production in Komische Oper Berlin, Barrie Kosky directs this version, with non-binary performer Tommy Novak in the role of Avram.

Novak's pronouns are them/they/their and they are from Chicago's North Side. They attended Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Long Grove, Illinois and Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Novak earned a 2016 Jeff Nomination for Night Blue's The Producers and their production of Romeo and Juliet won the 2019 Broadway World Regional Award for Best Professional Production.

This trained and talented entertainer talked about their journey to Fiddler and some exciting new projects in the works exclusively to Windy City readers.

Windy City Times: Have you always wanted to be a performer?

Tommy Novak: Oh, yeah, I started off as a choir kid in elementary school. My aunt and mother took me to musicals all the time. Disney movies are the best. I grew up singing and dancing.

WCT: What led you to the Lyric?

TN: My agent had sent me for several auditions there such as 42nd Street and was called in for Fiddler after sending in an audition tape. I was called in for Tevye, Lazar Wolf and Mordcha. The assistant director asked me to read for Avram, a bookseller. This is a character that supports others in the plot but does not have a lot of identifying features.

This was my first in-person audition since the pandemic. It was a moment to finally be in front of humans and I felt great about it. I got the call and got it.

WCT: You must be excited to be on that iconic stage.

TN: I have seen many musicals there and they are just unworldly. Fiddler on the Roof is like an opera with a musical tradition. All of the principles are from the musical-theater world.

There will be around 100 people on the stage with dancers, a chorus and actors. I am used to playing a part like Avram and then switching costumes to play a bunch of different characters. With this production, there are people to play different roles. It is fascinating to watch.

This is my first show back since the pandemic on a stage, so I know I will be emotional.

WCT: You worked on Mercury Theater's Priscilla Queen of the Desert?

TN: Yes, I [was an assistant director in] it, as well as in La Cage aux Folles. It was a true collaboration. It turned out better than any production of Priscilla could. The script is a device to get to the next pop song, but we tried to make it about navigating life as a queer individual. Sometimes there is a celebration and then sometimes homophobia. The show punches in a different way.

WCT: Does being non-binary open you up to playing all genders?

TN: Yes and no. I have been playing old dudes since I was in middle school. I was in the adult chorus of Bye Bye Birdie in high school! [laughs]

There aren't many roles written from a non-binary perspective. There are more coming in mainstream television as opposed to the theater. People don't know what to do with us.

WCT: What would you like to see a change in the industry as far as non-binary casting?

TN: I think companies are striving for diversity but they don't understand gender diversity as well as body type diversity. How does a show look at is diverse? There need to be all sorts of narratives.

There needs to be more stories and not doing a Brigadoon with identities shoved into it that didn't exist.

WCT: What did you think of the casting and interpretation of the musical Oklahoma?

TN: I loved it. I saw it three times when it was here. I wanted to see it because they didn't change the lines or cut anything. They just shifted the perspective and overall intentions of the original. It was something I had never seen before.

WCT: What are you working on next?

TN: After Fiddler, I am assistant directing Clue at the Mercury, then I am going to Milwaukee to perform in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical. I will be playing Sam the Snowman after understudying the role previously.

WCT: Can you make the role your own after the classic Rankin/Bass version?

TN: Well, you have to honor that, but there are some moments where I can make the Burl Ives character my own. I am working on the script now because there are a lot of lines!

I teach at Carthage College where I got my master's degree and we will be working on Hair as a director amidst Clue.

WCT: You teach also?

TN: Yes and I have even taught musical theater in China. I have been working with The Voice Lab Chicago to help trans and non-binary artists with their transition. It is masculinization and feminization of the vocal cords. Female-to-male transitions sometimes just rely on testosterone, but male-to-female transitions need to have ear training and memorization. I help people find their voice to fit their identity.

WCT: How rewarding!

TN: It is important and when someone has euphoria after learning how to sing there is nothing like it. Once I got my degree I noticed a lot of trans and non-binary students would seek me out on campus. I would help them navigate costumes and characters.

WCT: Your real name is Tommy Novak?

TN: Yes—Thomas Novak, but I go by Tommy. My grandmother always called me Tommy Tune. She is very excited about coming to see me in Fiddler on the Roof!

***You don't have to be a rich man to afford tickets. Just click over to for seats that will suit your budget. (Note: The production is three hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission. Also, Fiddler on the Roof will not have an at-home streaming option.)

For more on Novak's teaching and projects, visit .

This article shared 530 times since Mon Sep 5, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

Yvie Oddly summons sinful drag queens in upcoming 'Night of the Living Drag' 2022-10-02
- RuPaul's Drag Race: Night of the Living Drag is coming to the Rosemont Theater on Tuesday, Oct. 25, starring Yvie Oddly as The Boogie Man and featuring ...

Gay News

THEATER Steppenwolf running Eve L. Ewing's '1919' Oct. 4-29 2022-10-02
- Steppenwolf Theatre Company will present the Steppenwolf for Young Adults' world premiere of 1919, adapted by J. Nicole Brooks from Eve L. Ewing's collection of poems about the killing of Black teenager Eugene Williams in 1919 ...

Gay News

Celebration of trans icon Gloria Allen's life on Oct. 6 2022-10-01
- A celebration of life for the late Chicago trans icon "Mama" Gloria Allen will take place Thursday, Oct. 6, at 10 a.m. at Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., inside the third-floor theater. Allen founded ...

Gay News

THEATER About Face showing LGBTQ+ play 'Mosque4Mosque' 2022-10-01
- About Face Theatre opens its 2022-23 season with the world premiere of Omer Abbas Salem's new play Mosque4Mosque, directed by Sophiyaa Nayar. Mosque4Mosque is a family comedy about a queer Arab-American Muslim man navigating his first ...

Gay News

More special guests announced for Chicago International Film Festival 2022-09-29
-- From a press release - CHICAGO, Illinois (September 28, 2022) — Today, the Chicago International Film Festival announced new guests and details for its 58th edition, running October 12 - 23, 2022. Film screenings and programs will take place at theaters ...

Gay News

MUSIC Jessie Mueller and Seth Rudetsky at Steppenwolf on Jan. 14, 2023 2022-09-28
- On Jan. 14, 2023 in Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater, 1650 N. Halsted St., Steppenwolf Theatre and Mark Cortale will present Tony winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful; Waitress) for a hometown concert, hosted and music directed by Sirius XM ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Cardi B, Sam Smith, 'Wednesday' series, Sean Hayes, Serena 2022-09-25
Video below - Cardi B clapped back at someone on Twitter who declared her a celebrity who "came out as bisexual but never dated someone of the same gender," per Out Magazine. The tweet,—featuring pictures of Cardi, Grimes, Lady ...

Gay News

Jackalope Theatre Company announces 15th season 2022-09-24
-- From a press release - CHICAGO (September 20th, 2022) — Jackalope Theatre Company announces its return to in-person productions with its 2022-23 season featuring the Among the Dead by Hansol Jung, directed by Jackalope Artistic ...

Gay News

THEATER Underscore to permanently close; festival gains new home 2022-09-23
- The board of directors of Underscore Theatre Company announced the company will close its doors permanently after eleven dynamic years of producing musical theatre in Chicago, including 16 world premieres. However, the company's Chicago Musical Theatr ...

Gay News

THEATER The Gift running thriller 'The Locusts' Oct. 20-Nov. 19 2022-09-23
- The Gift Theatre will conclude its 2022 season with the world premiere of Jennifer Rumberger's thriller The Locusts, commissioned and developed by The Gift and directed by ensemble member John Gawlik. The Locusts will run Oct. ...

Gay News

COMEDY Extra performances added for Jerrod Carmichael at Steppenwolf 2022-09-23
- Due to popular demand, Steppenwolf Theatre has added two additional performances of Emmy award-winning comedian Jerrod Carmichael's new solo show on Friday-Saturday, Nov. 4-5, at 10 p.m. as part of ...

Gay News

MUSIC Cabaret singer Jeff Harnar talks Sondheim, coming out 2022-09-23
- Jeff Harnar wasn't born in Chicago, but he will tell you first-hand that it is his home. Having spent his formative years in this city, Harnar discovered a passion for musical theater. Decades later, he has ...

Gay News

Out comic/writer Sam Jay talks career ahead of Wicker Park performance 2022-09-22
- Stand-up comic and Emmy-nominated writer Sam Jay will be performing at The Den Theatre, located in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, on Sept. 23-24. The first Black lesbian writer in Saturday Night Live's history, Jay is a ...

Gay News

COMEDY Cameron Esposito at The Den Theatre on Dec. 30-31 2022-09-22
- The Den Theatre is welcoming back LGBTQ+ comedian Cameron Esposito, performing two stand-up shows on Dec. 30-31, 2022 on The Heath Mainstage, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. Esposito (a onetime Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree) ...

Gay News

Mercury Theater Chicago announces fun enhancements to the Clue live on-stage experience 2022-09-19
-- From a press release - Chicago (September 16, 2022) — Mercury Theater Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, Managing Director Kristi J. Martens and Executive Producers L. Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon have announced fun experiences ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.