Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick’s musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ brings 70s TV icon Paul Michael Glaser to the stage to take the lead in a UK tour of the classic musical. Best known for playing cardigan clad detective David Starsky in hit US show Starsky & Hutch, Glaser stars as Jewish milkman Tevye – a man intent on making sure his 5 daughters abide by traditional values as the modern world tries to tempt them otherwise.
Set in the small Russian village of Anatevka we meet a close-knit Jewish community who are on the cusp of the revolution and face the impending threat of Cossacks driving them away. Expect some dark undertones as the show tackles love, greed, hunger and pain along with the central story of Tevye’s struggle to please his 3 eldest daughters and his wife in their quest to find suitable husbands.
Diago Pitarch has created a simple set which sees the exterior of Tevye’s house take centre stage and open up to reveal the interior and close again for the street scenes. It’s effective and also keeps to the period of the piece without detracting from the performances onstage.
We meet some well rounded characters as the story unfolds, from Yente the Matchmaker who believes ‘even the worst husband is better than no husband’ to Lazar the big-bearded butcher who believes his money will make up for his lack of looks when it comes bagging a bride.
Fiddler on the Roof is full of some unforgettable tunes that will have you humming them long after you leave the theatre. From the more well-known ‘Tradition’, and ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ to the understated and beautiful ‘Sunrise, Sunset’.
First staged in 1964 there’s been numerous productions of this classic – at the helm of this one is Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood who has taken on both the role of director and choreographer. Horwood has made the genius decision to have the performers play musical instruments as part of their roles, casting aside the usual need for an orchestra and pit. The fluid way Orchestrator and Musical Director Sarah Travis has merged the instruments into the numbers makes them look natural as they are used to accompany the singing and play out emotions.
Horwood wanted the audience ‘to see the music come to life’ and has totally achieved his aims here. Having a fiddler sat on the roof of the house actually playing the fiddle (when in previous productions it is usually mimed) is again another element that sets this show apart from others. As Craig would say in his Strictly role, ‘Ah-maze –zing dahling’!
You need a multi-talented cast to carry off such a challenge and that is exactly what we have here.
Karen Mann as Golde is a joy to watch as the wife who is desperate to marry her daughters off to a rich Jewish man so they are not left on the shelf. She makes a great pairing with Glaser especially in the hilarious ‘dream’ scene, which takes place in their marital bed.
Those who are fans of the 1971 Norman Jewison film might be a little disappointed at Glaser’s portrayal of the role made famous by Topol on the silver screen. Whilst he might not deliver the strong vocals of Topol, Glaser compensates with his acting ability, which carries the audience along laughing at his asides and feeling his pain as his family falls apart.
Some great performances put in by the younger members of the cast; Emily O’ Keefe, Liz Singleton and Claire Petzal as the 3 main daughters Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava. The trio work together well in ‘Matchmaker’ with beautiful harmonies and a charming spirit as the naïve sisters wanting to grow up and live their lives on their own terms. In particular Singleton shines as Hodel with an angelic voice and lovely few scenes with her student suitor Perchik (Steven Bor).
At the heart of the show is the ‘tradition’ of the Jewish faith presenting a real insight for those unfamiliar with the religion and although there are a few ‘in jokes’ that might only register with those of the faith in the audience, there’s plenty more that will have you in stitches and feeling as though for 175 minutes you are an adopted member of their community.
A big ‘Mazel Tov’ to all involved!
Fiddler on the Roof
29th Oct – 2nd Nov
Lyric Theatre, The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays