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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Fiddler on the Roof
Savoy Theatre 2007-2008

A guaranteed audience-pleaser, Fiddler On The Roof comes around every decade or so, and it's right that it should. Those who have seen it can be sure of an evening of pleasure, while those who haven't deserve the opportunity.

This new production transfers from Sheffield, with Henry Goodman playing Tevye, the milkman in a 19th-century Russian Jewish village whose daughters have tradition-defying romantic notions. You don't have to be Jewish (as success around the world has shown) to enjoy the company of this little man who chats intimately with God while trying to eke out an existence as precarious as the title.

This production is directed by Lindsay Posner in a way that wisely doesn't travel very far from the original and the images Fiddler veterans remember. Indeed, the original choreography of Jerome Robbins has been recreated for the key dance numbers - the opening Tradition, the challenge dance between Jews and Cossacks in To Life, and the bottles-on-heads Wedding Dance.

The two most notable divergences lie in the staging of Tevye's nightmare scene, which is thoroughly delightful in its silliness, and in the final tableau, which is noticibly less moving and evocative than other directors have been able to make it.

Some of the visual images, like the Robbins dances, and some of the songs, like If I Were A Rich Man, have become imprinted on our cultural DNA, and even the lacklustre performance of Sunrise Sunset you get here still pushes your emotional buttons.

Things occasionally look cramped on the tiny Savoy stage, and you may become aware that a lot of the less-familiar songs (generally, those that aren't Tevye's) actually aren't very good.

Hearty, sly, alternately comic and sentimental, Henry Goodman may be a slightly more subdued Tevye than others - by others I mainly mean Zero Mostel and Topol, both of whom were prone to add layers and layers of gilding onto the already shtick-filled character. But don't worry - Fiddler veterans will recognise bits of business every Tevye since Mostel 40-odd years ago has used, along with a few new ones that are Goodman's own.

Beverley Klein balances him as a nicely no-nonsense Golde, Julie Legrand is shrill as Yente the matchmaker, and the various daughters and their suitors are adequate.

This may not be a Fiddler to remember for the rest of your life, but it does justice to the show, and provides what it promises, a Good Night Out.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Fiddler on the Roof - Savoy 2007