Photos – Jeff Busby
There is something about a theatrical piece, musical or otherwise, than can continue to move and enlighten audience members, decades after it first opened. Some call this a Classic. Fiddler on the Roof is without much of a doubt, such a show, and this current revival production is lovingly and often touchingly, brought to life.
Filled with memorable tunes from Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Jerry Bock (music) that many people will recognise, even if you have never seen Fiddler on stage or screen – Matchmaker, Matchmaker, To Life, the haunting Sunrise, Sunset and of course Tevye's If I Were A Rich Man (to name a few) – the show (with a book by Joseph Stein) manages to capture the lives of a town of simple, oppressed people who never lose their spirit or their faith, no matter what obstacles are thrown their way.
Based on the Sholem Aleichem Stories, the story is set in Tzarist Russia but filled with Yiddish humour and themes which resonate today. The final scene, still quite moving no matter how many times I have seen it, is straight out of today's headlines with the current displacement of millions of people in Europe.
Here the story is very much centred on the character of Tevye, an honest, caring man who constantly, and amusingly, misquotes from the Good Book, and who is forced to question his strong beliefs in not only his religion but in tradition and its values, amidst a world that is changing fast around him.
Casting acclaimed and now Broadway veteran Anthony Warlow in the role of Tevye is a coup and is absolutely pivotal to the success of this production. Many have worn Tevye's shoes before, none more famous that Israeli actor Topol, who starred in the original London production and the subsequent film version. Australia was lucky enough to experience Topol's memorable interpretation over a decade ago. Warlow rises to this challenge brilliantly and delivers a strong, grounded performance, although perhaps not always playing with the humour as much as some have.
The supporting cast and ensemble meet this high standard and manage to bring a wonderful array of characters to life, maintaining a mostly uniform and authentic accent throughout.
Mention should be made of Nicki Wendt's Yente the Matchmaker, Mark Mitchell as Lazar Wolfe and Lior in his musical theatre debut as Motel. Already an accomplished singer and recording artist, Lior proves he can handle a character and script, and will settle well into the role.
Sigrid Thornton, well known for film, television and theatre, is a confident and strong Golde (Tevye's wife). While Golde is not an overly demanding singing role, there are moments (such as in Sunrise, Sunset), when she has to match Warlow. Thornton's singing voice, while pleasant, is not strong enough amidst such a talented company.
Blake Bowden (Perchick), Jensen Overend (Fyedka) and Derek Taylor (Rabbi) all have moments for their talent to shine, as do Teagan Wouters, Jessica Vickers and Monica Swayne as Tevye's three oldest daughters (Tzeitel, Chava and Hodel).
Director Roger Hodgman has always been a fine director who manages to extract memorable performances from his cast, and Fiddler is no exception, with his staging efficient and crisp.
Dana Jolly has beautifully reproduced the standout choreography of Jerome Robbins (the Wedding Dance sequence a particularly memorable moment at the end of Act One).
With Kelly Dickerson masterfully leading the orchestra and Paul Jackson's atmospheric lighting, and an effective design from Richard Roberts, there is very little not to like about this well-timed revival production.
Produced by Tim Lawson for The Works Entertainment
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
book Joseph Stein | music Jerry Bock | lyrics Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Roger Hodgman
Venue: Princess Theatre Melbourne
Dates: 29 December 2015 – 27 February 2016
Capitol Theatre Sydney From 24 March 2016