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A CurtainUp London Review
Fiddler on the Roof

"Seedlings turn overnight to flowers, blossoming even as we gaze." — Lyric from "Sunrise/Sunset"
Fiddler on the Roof
Cast in Fiddler on the Roof (Photo: Johan Persson)
Set in the fictional shtetl of Anatevka, the story of Fiddler on the Roof focuses around a Jewish milkman named Teyve (Andy Nyman) and three of his daughters, Tzeitel (Molly Osbourne), Hodel (Harriet Bunton) and Chava (Kirsty Maclaren) as they prepare to find husbands. However, each of Teyve's three daughters find love outside of their Jewish religion and unsurprisingly, Teyve struggles to come to terms with this. Not only is Teyve having to cope with his headstrong daughters, he is also trying to keep his own marriage with his wife, Golde (Judy Kuhn) alive and deal with the constant, looming threat of the Tsarist backed Cossack raids.

At first, the plot may seem complex, however I actually felt that it was the opposite and flimsy, especially when this production has a running time of just under three hours with a first act approaching an hour and three quarters. There is a lot of dialogue that does not add to the storyline and it makes the pace of the show painstakingly slow. At times, the plot becomes so contrived that it ruins any previously set up moments of sincerity. I also had doubts about the stereotyping of Jewish families and their culture, maybe a fault of this production lacking authenticity. In this Fiddler on the Roof the characters are either over-the-top, happy or in over-dramatic mourning, caricatures of an impressive Jewish heritage.

To counteract the historical nature of the book, Trevor Nunn has attempted to keep the audience's attention by utilising the immersive space of the Menier Chocolate Factory. However, some scene changes felt clunky and repetitive and the novelty of the cast entering through the audience wore off very fast. The few fight scenes almost crossed the line into slapstick and when an audience is as close to the action as they are at the tiny Menier, there is nowhere to hide.

As there had been a lot of press attention around him gaining this role, I had high hopes for Andy Nyman as Teyve but for me, his performance was lacklustre. Both his singing and acting were passable but for a character as dominant as Teyve, I hoped for more. As Motel, the lovable and geeky tailor, Joshua Gannon is the glue that this show needs. He performs his solo number, "Miracle of Miracles" with great glee and energy. For me, this was the highlight of the show, but I am not sure that a show should peak halfway through its first act.

On a positive note, the music is an absolute delight and the orchestra sound magnificent. It can be very difficult to get the balance between the instrumental and the vocals right, in a space like the Menier but for this show, it was spot on. The cast of twenty-two sang with great gusto in order to make themselves heard over the orchestra. The songs, "Sunrise/Sunset" and "Anatevka" are quite moving and both of these songs have repeated in my head numerous times since. Tim Lutkin's lighting design was particularly majestic during "Sunrise/Sunset" which only enhanced the beauty of this number.

For this show to boast its use of Jerome Robbins' original choreography is a big statement. Unfortunately, due to the limited onstage space, the cast are not able to perform this iconic choreography to its fullest potential and the great skill involved in the "Bottle Dance" is not able to be appreciated because of the very close proximity of the dancers to the audience.

If I was reviewing this production based on the score and the performance of said score alone, I would be recommending that you should buy a ticket. However, you could just hope that they release a cast recording. Unfortunately, this new production of a classic musical about Jewish culture and family relationships is missing its chutzpah.

Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Tradition – Teyve and Company
  • Matchmaker, Matchmaker – Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava
  • If I Were a Rich Man – Teyve
  • Sabbath Prayer – Tevye, Golde and Company
  • To Life – Teyve, Lazar Wolf and Company
  • Teyve's Monologue – Teyve
  • Miracle of Miracles – Motel
  • Teyve's Dream – Teyve, Golde, Grandma Tzeitel, Fruma Sarah and Company
  • Sunrise, Sunset – Company
  • The Wedding/Bottle Dance – Company
Act Two
  • Entr'acte
  • Now I Have Everything – Perchik and Hodel
  • Teyve's Rebuttal – Teyve
  • Do You Love Me? – Teyve and Golde
  • The Rumour – Yente and Company
  • Far From the Home I Love – Hodel
  • Chavaleh (Little Bird) – Teyve
  • Anatevka – Company

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Fiddler on the Roof
Music: Jerry Boch
Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick
Book: Joseph Stein
Director: Trevor Nunn
Starring: Andy Nyman, Judy Kuhn, Molly Osbourne, Harriet Bunton, Kirsty Maclaren, Lia Cohen, Shoshana Ezequiel, Valentina Theodoulou, Sofia Bennett, Lottie Casserley, Matilda Hopkins, Louise Gold, Joshua Gannon, Stewart Clarke, Dermot Canavan, Robert Maskell, Fenton Gray, Benny Maslov, Craig Pinder, Gaynor Miles, Matt Corner, Ellie Mullane, James Hameed, Miles Barrow, Matthew Hawksley, Adam Margilewski and Darius Luke Thompson.
Choreography: Jerome Robbins and Matt Cole
Set Design: Robert Jones
Costume Design: Jonathan Lipman
Hair and Make-up Design: Richard Mawbey
Lighting Design: Tim Lutkin
Sound Design: Gregory Clarke
Musical Supervisor/Musical Director: Paul Bogaev
Orchestrations: Jason Carr
Running time: Two hours and fifty-five minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7378 1713
Booking to 9th March 2019
Reviewed by Reece George based on the 6th December 2018 performance at the Menier Chocolate Factor, 53 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU. (Tube: Borough/London Bridge)
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