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Fiddler on the Roof
This is a feel good musical, full of human spirit. It highlights the concerns that many families have about the men their daughters choose to marry. Of course Tevye and Golde (Beverley Klein), besides being blessed with five daughters, also have the problem of coping with being displaced from their homes and having to embark on a new life, far away in a strange country. The night I saw Fiddler grandparents who remembered the musical from its first London showing in the 1960s were introducing it to their grandchildren. The musical itself has become their heritage.
I haven't seen Fiddler onstage before so I am unable to enlighten you as to the new elements which Lindsay Posner brings to the show, but I suspect like the opening number, he has pretty much stuck with "Tradition". The set is wooden towers of higgeldy piggeldy planks with a roof for the eponymous fiddler to play from and tiny glowing lanterns to bring life to the homes. When the candles are lit for the Sabbath, the whole set is bathed in a rich yellow light. Of course the wedding celebration is a highpoint as Tzeitel (Frances Thorburn) and Motel the tailor (Gareth Kennerley) tie the knot or break the glass, with wonderful male dancers twirling with gravity defying glasses held high on hats. The start of the cruel pogroms as evidenced by the Cossack raid on the village is distressing.
Much of the show is dependent on the character of the milkman, Tevye (Henry Goodman). From the three eldest of his daughters, each chooses a husband increasingly less to his liking. Tzeitel turns down the rich butcher to wed her tailor. Hodel (Alexandra Silber) is attracted to a dissident intellectual from another area, Perchick (Damian Humbley), who is sent to Siberia where they face hardship. Chava (Natasha Broomfield) falls in love with a non Jew, a Russian, Fyedka (Michael Conway) which tests her father's patience to breaking point. Henry Goodman shows his versatility as an actor with great comedic instinct but also as a singer and dancer, bringing to life the wonderful dances of Jerome Robbins' (born Jerome Rabinovitz to a Jewish Immigrant family in New York) choreography.
It is probably unfair to single out individuals in the superb ensemble but I thought the dancing was of a very high standard and I greatly enjoyed the merging of the Jewish dances with the Cossack routines. Of the daughters, Hodel's (Alexandra Silber) singing voice is outstanding. It is a production brimming over with characters and earthy atmosphere and feels fresh and full of verve. Of course the eleven piece band is strong and greatly enhances the show. I was surprised at how many of the tunes I knew and could leave the theatre humming.
For a review of a recent Broadway revival of the show, which includes a song list, go here
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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