Playhouse Theatre – booking to 2 November 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
After seeing this production in the intimate space of the Menier, ideal for staging the claustrophobia of shtetl life, I was curious to see how Trevor Nunn’s shtetl would be realised in a larger theatre. Robert Jones’ set is still sublime – a rickety and ramshackle row of wooden houses with an intricate series of doors for the inhabitants to appear through. Using just planks and crates, the cast set up different sites in the shtetl that are instantly recognisable. With the stage extended forward and a walkway through the centre of the stalls, and a screen of wooden planks and trees narrowing the side aisles, the atmosphere is intense – in the stalls at least – as the cast move amongst the audience.
Fiddler on the Roof is one of those musicals that even people who hate musical theatre can hum at least one tune from, and Jerry Boch and Sheldon Harnick’s music and lyrics just sweep you away from the moment the fiddler puts his bow to the strings. Joseph Stein’s book becomes a little episodic, but that is completely forgivable to reach the show’s lowkey ending. The story of Tevye, the poor dairyman, struggling to marry off his five daughters and the whole community clinging to tradition as a shield against the rapidly changing world is full of humour and emotion; and in the hands of this incredible cast, every word is heartfelt without being corny.
Andy Nyman is a phenomenal Tevye – capturing the frustration, sadness and love of the character in a multi-layered performance that will just blow you away. He has made the role his own. Maria Friedman joins the cast as Golde his long-suffering wife and their scenes together are extraordinary, conveying so much emotion effortlessly, and making familiar songs seem fresh and new. Friedman manages to exude frustration, resignation and hope all at once, and that voice! Anita Dobson also joins the cast as Yente and appears to be having as much fun playing the interfering old matchmaker as the audience is watching her. Molly Osborne, Harriet Bunton and Nicola Brown give each of the tentatively rebellious daughters a beautifully subtle strength and Joshua Gannon, Stewart Clarke and Mathew Hawksley are quirky and charming as their imperfect suitors. The whole cast is sublime, with tight vocals and excelling in Matt Cole’s choreography. The production keeps Jerome Robbins’ choreography for the raucous celebrations of To Life and The Wedding/Bottle Dance, with the male dancers bringing the house down with their insane dancing.
If you’re looking for a production that can pull on your heartstrings but keep you laughing out loud and tapping your feet to its irresistible rhythms, then Fiddler on the Roof is the one to see. Simply glorious.