Playhouse Theatre, London
Trevor Nunn’s extraordinary production of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s classic musical makes a delightful transfer to the Playhouse Theatre.
Aside from the beauty of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s beautiful score, it is a shame to see just how painfully relevant Fiddler on the Roof is in terms of prejudice and persecution towards those of different faiths that is so poignantly highlighted in Trevor Nunn’s exquisite production.
But this does not distract from the fact that this production is also wonderfully entertaining with some excellent performances in the cast to bring this powerful story of family, love and tradition to life.
Based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories of the life of a Jewish family living in a shtetl in Imperial Russia, Fiddler on the Roof follows Tevye, his wife Golde and his five daughters who look set to be married off with the help of Yente the Matchmaker. But when three of his daughters want to marry for love Tevye finds it a struggle to reconcile his love for his family with his belief in tradition.
From the second that the audience steps into the Playhouse Theatre’s auditorium, they are beautifully transported to the world of Anatevka thanks to the set design of Robert Jones which surrounds the audience and welcomes them to this community, creating a warm, intimate and inviting environment that highlights the key moments of the show to great effect. In particular, the wedding scene and the rendition of ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ captures this perfectly, helped by Tim Lutkin’s gorgeously soft lighting.
Nunn’s production while filled with warmth and humour can come across as slightly too long, lingering over moments that could be sharpened up slightly – particularly when Tevye is explaining his horrifying dream to Golde. It is a production at its best when it focuses on Tevye’s inner battle about doing what is best for his family or the uneasy moments during which the persecution lingers – particularly in the final moments in the first act in which a fight takes place that subtly reminds us that even a quiet community prejudice can always be found.
The performances are in a class of their own – led by Andy Nyman as the constantly troubled Tevye who just wants an easy life. Nyman’s performance is warm and charismatic but also allows the audience to really feel and understand his inner torment about the way in his own family traditions are being transformed as the world changes – captured in the rawness of his rendition of ‘Chavaleh (Little Bird)’, while his performance of ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ is delightfully funny and enjoyable.
Meanwhile, Judy Kuhn offers a strong and well measure performance as the long-suffering Golde – she has a lovely chemistry with Nyman as seen during their performance of ‘Do You Love Me?’ Stewart Clarke as the passionate and impulsive Perchik and Louise Gold as Yente the Matchmaker also deliver memorable performances – but the cast as a whole all develop their characters with great care and understanding that the audience really feel and understand everything that they go through.
This really is a must-see production that is as poignant and moving as it is funny and heartwarming, delivered with great energy and enthusiasm by the cast and the creative team.