Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester – until 2 September 2017
Guest reviewer: Soraya Scrivener
Set in 1905 in Imperial Russia, this musical tells the tale of Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman and his family, focusing on his three eldest daughters as they in turn wish to marry for love against tradition. Opening on Broadway in 1964 it ran for 3242 performances, holding the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for nearly 10 years and winning 9 Tony Awards.
In 1967, it hit the West End and played for 2030 performances and has since had many revivals across the globe and the highly successful 1971 film starring Topol, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. We follow the conflict of generations, breaking down of traditions and a community forced to become refugees that is just as relevant today. As Tevye states ‘without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof.’
Omid Djalili is truly sensational as Tevye. His witty ‘If I were a Rich Man’ is worth the ticket price and five stars alone. Djalili’s meticulous gesticulation, facial expressions and voice gave meaning to every syllable. Perfection! As a comedian, the audience expected him to shine comically which he did in abundance but he equally entranced us in his monologues to God and in tender numbers such as Chaveleh.
Daniel Evans direction is delightful. The company wow the audience with their magnificent harmonies from their first to last note. The ‘Sabbath Prayer’ and ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ were particularly exquisite enhanced by candlelight. David Hersey’s lighting was beautiful throughout clearly showing the transition between Tevye’s dialogue with God and the action. Equally Lez Brotherston’s designs excite. I must mention the ring of fire around the revolve at the end of ‘The Dream.’
The casting of the five women playing Tevye’s daughters was the only unconvincing element of the production for me. Whilst talented it niggled me throughout that they looked so very different. Other elements of this casting also irked but nothing detracted from this five-star show.
I enjoyed Gareth Snook‘s characterisation of Lazar Wolf, the wealthy, mature butcher initially matched to Tevye’s eldest daughter. He reminded me of Albert Steptoe. ‘To Life’ celebrating the match was full of energy but I was hoping for more thrilling dancing by the Russians as during the rest of the show Alistair David’s choreography is sensational.
Jos Slovick’s Motel is charmingly giddy in ‘Miracle of Miracles.’ Mia Soteriou as Grandma Tzeitel and Laura Tebbutt’s Fruma-Sarah entertain in ‘The Dream.’ What a spectacular voice Tebbutt has. The skilled male dancers wowed us in the ‘Wedding Dance’ and were then joined by Djalili and more men for a challenging bottle balancing routine.
Act Two opened with the orchestra visible for the toe tapping entr’acte. The orchestra led by Tom Brady are a joy throughout. Tracy-Ann Oberman is a fine match to Djalili as Golde, Tevye’s wife. Their duet ‘Do You Love Me’ was touching and funny.
Special mention must go to Emma Kingston as Hodel as her rendition of ‘Far From the Home I Love’ was stunning. After the procession left the village the audience were moved by a creative ending. No spoilers from me!
Fiddler on the Roof has the perfect balance of tragedy and comedy brimming with beloved melodies. From the words of one of its songs – ‘laden with happiness and tears’. Not to be missed and one I would eagerly return to just for Djalili’s stunning performance. It certainly raised the roof!