Chichester Festival Theatre – until 2 September 2017
It’s not often that I venture out of London for theatre, but when I do it’s usually to Chichester and so far I’ve never been disappointed with a production. Of the various shows I’ve seen there, Fiddler on the Roof is by far the best and I am completely in awe of its brilliance. If I Were A Rich Man, I would fund this production’s transfer to the West End right this minute. But as I’m not I will have to settle with the fact that the show, directed by Daniel Evans, is absolutely fantastic so is more than likely to make the move without me… I’ll just have to wait a little while.
Set in rural Tsarist Russia in 1905 when the first hints of revolution are revealing themselves, we follow Tevye who is trying to preserve tradition in the face of a changing world by marrying off his daughters. They, however, want to marry not for money but for love. In a time when Russia’s Jews are facing incredible hardships and tradition is one of the few things keeping them together, Tevye has to decide whether his daughters’ happiness is more important than his adored traditions.
Omid Djalili was born to play the poor dairyman, Tevye. His masterful comedic timing is pure excellence but he also manages to capture his internal torment and external hardships perfectly. Djalili is able to involve the audience with every thought that goes through his head and makes sure that every side of the Festival Theatre gets to feel and see the emotion. Tracy-Ann Oberman is great as his wife, Golde, with her caustic personality the ideal contrast to the bright, humorous Tevye.
The rest of the family are equally strong with the daughters each having clear personalities and being performed to the fullest. Simbe Akande as Tzeitel is sweet but strong, begging her father to allow her to marry the impoverished tailor, Motel (Joe Slovic). The pair works wonderfully together. Emma Kingston shows off her stunning voice as Hodel who falls in love with the forward thinking, Perchik played by Louis Maskell who has an equally beautiful voice which soared over every note perfectly in ‘Now I Have Everything’. Particularly touching with the two was during the first Sabbath dinner when they kept subtly making eye contact with one another and we could see the first inklings of their romance. Rose Shalloo as Chava and Luke Fetherston as Fyedka have fantastic chemistry show their struggles with honesty and strength.
Lez Brotherston’s design is bare and simplistic as it should be but transitions and evolves wonderfully to create the various settings and is able to establish feelings of both warmth and stark cold at various times. Alistair David’s choreography is spectacular, lively and powerful. It unapologetically shows off Jewish tradition and does so in an extremely striking way; popping and dazzling from start to end.
The entire cast are incredibly strong and this is as much an ensemble piece and it is a lead-led piece. Each moment when the cast come together- either in choreography or in close a cappella harmony- is magical.
I’m truly wowed by this production. My only little niggle is the accents at times, with some attempting and falling somewhat short but this is my only fault in an overall impeccable production. May it transfer and run for a very long time!
Fiddler on the Roof runs at the Chichester Festival Theatre until September 2nd 2017
photo credit: Johan Persson