The Book of Exodus says that after crossing the Red Sea, Moses led the Hebrews into the Sinai, where they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Fortunately for the inhabitants of a small Russian village at the turn of the last century, all they had to do was move across the river as they took the highly successful Menier Chocolate Factory production of Fiddler on the Roof across the Thames to the Playhouse Theatre.
The story centres around Tevye (Andy Nyman) a poor Jewish milkman, his wife Golde (Judy Kuhn) and their five daughters, Tzeitel (Molly Osborne), Hodel (Harriet Bunton), Chava (Nicola Brown), Shprintze (Elena Cervesi/Lia Cohen/Shoshana Ezequiel/Valentina Theodoulo) and finally Beilke (Sofia Bennett/Lottie Casserley/Talia Etherington/Isabella Foat). Like all of the Jewish inhabitants of Anatevka, the family lives an uneasy life by the side of the Christian Russians who are the dominant people in the village. Still, everyone is surviving and Tevye puts this survival down to one thing – Tradition. The Jewish population’s every action is dictated by the traditions of their race. So, for example, marriages are arranged by Yente, the Matchmaker (Louise Gold). And has she got a match for Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeitel? The rich, widowed and elderly village butcher Lazar Wolf (Dermot Canavan) has decided to take a new wife and the nineteen-year-old Tzeitel has taken his eye. Yente and Golde are overjoyed about the match. And if Tzeitel has her heart set on marrying someone else, maybe the poor tailor Motel Kamzoil (Joshua Gannon), well she will get over it. As Tevye says, Tradition is the most important thing. But outside in the world, things, people and ideas are changing. Anatevka’s inhabitants feel the first rumblings of this change with the arrival of a radical student from Kiev by the name of Perchik (Stewart Clarke). As change forces itself in, can Tevye, his friends and family resist or will their traditions and concept of life be swept aside causing him to question everything he has ever held dear?
If you read my first review for Fiddler then you will know I absolutely loved the show at the Menier. I’m thrilled to confirm that the trip across the river has done nothing to change my feelings. This an absolutely first-rate show with an amazing cast led by the wonderful Andy Nyman in the role of Tevye.
Nyman’s performance is perfect in every way. From the moment he arrived on an empty stage, sat on a milk churn and started the introduction, you knew this was going to be a fantastic performance. There are so many highlights to Nyman’s portrayal of Tevye. My favourites are his talks with God. The relationship is like a man with his father or a trusted male friend. You can have a moan but remember to stay respectful. For example “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” or “Sometimes I wonder, when it gets too quiet up there if You are thinking, ‘What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?’” Then there are the moments with Golde. Nyman and Judy Kuhn have that wonderful chemistry on stage where you could imagine that they have been together for 25 years – in some ways, the bickering and little loving arguments remind me of my own parents – and this is really brought out during their duet ‘Do You Love Me?’ in the Second Act.
Backing up these two are excellent performances from the rest of the highly talented and convincing cast. Who, under Director Trevor Nunn and Choreographer Matthew Cole bring the town and its people to life in fine style. Favourite moments of the show for me have to be the opening which starts with fiddler Darius Luke Thompson atop Robert Jones village set playing his violin. The second is the famous bottle dance in the wedding scene which, having seen it twice now, still amazes me with the skill and grace of the dancers. To be honest I could sit and write pages of my top bits of the show but I would end up writing out the whole thing as there were no points where it felt flat or my attention wandered and I was spellbound from the opening to the highly emotional and poignant ending.
Fiddler on the Roof is so wrong as a musical. There is a lot of misery and no happy endings but, there is a joy of life and living that makes it one of the best shows you are ever likely to see and as on a strictly limited run you would be mad to miss your chance, so stop reading and get your tickets now.
Review by Terry Eastham
Direct from its sold-out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Trevor Nunn’s ‘exuberant revival’ (The Telegraph) of the classic Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof transfers to the West End for a strictly limited run. The Playhouse Theatre will be specially transformed into an immersive space for this ‘shiveringly intimate chamber musical about family‘ (The Times).
Old traditions and young love collide in this joyous and timely celebration of life. Tevye’s daughters’ unexpected choice of husbands opens his heart to new possibilities, as his close-knit community also feel winds of change blowing through their tiny village.
Andy Nyman (Tevye)
Judy Kuhn (Golde)
Nicola Brown (Chava)
Harriet Bunton (Hodel)
Dermot Canavan (Lazar Wolf)
Stewart Clarke (Perchik)
Joshua Gannon (Motel)
Matthew Hawksley (Fyedka)
Louise Gold (Yente)
Molly Osborne (Tzeitel)
With Miles Barrow, Sofia Bennett, Philip Bertioli, Lottie Casserley, Elena Cervesi, Lia Cohen, Talia Etherington, Shoshana Ezequiel, Isabella Foat, Fenton Gray, James Hameed, Adam Linstead, Adam Margilewski, Robert Maskell, Benny Maslov, Robyn McIntyre, Gaynor Miles, Ellie Mullane, Tania Newton, Craig Pinder, Valentina Theodoulou and Ed Wade.
Director Trevor Nunn; Choreographers Jerome Robbins & Matt Cole; Set Designer Robert Jones
Costume Designer Jonathan Lipman; Hair and Makeup Designer Richard Mawbey
Lighting Designer Tim Lutkin; Sound Designer Gregory Clarke
Musical Supervisor & Director Paul Bogaev; Orchestrations Jason Carr
Chocolate Factory Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions and Michael Harrison present
The Menier Chocolate Factory production of
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Book by Joseph Stein Music by Jerry Bock Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
At Playhouse Theatre
Northumberland Ave, London WC2N 5DE