Fiddler On The Roof
Menier Chocolate Factory Winter 2018-2019
On The Roof is a great Broadway musical.
has a strong book (by
Joseph Stein, from the stories of Sholem Aleichem), catchy songs
(Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Boch), an excellent balance of comedy and
sentimentality, a starring role to die for, and loads of yiddishkeit,
Jewish cultural references and emotional evocations everyone can
a curious way it is actually an excellent Christmas
season show – it is, after all, about family and tradition and
reconciliation. What's not to like?
the fact that the best
that can be said of Trevor Nunn's new production is that it generally
stays out of the show's way. It doesn't add much or do as much as it
should to bring out the material's strengths.
as if you
needed to be told, is the story of Tevye, a Russian-Jewish villager
with five daughters to marry off, the ever-present threat of pogroms,
and little more than traditions and a strong cultural identity to
the first weakness in this production lies in the
casting of Tevye.
Nyman is talented and personable. But never
for a minute will you believe he is a middle-aged Russian Jew of the
voice, accent, manner of speaking and way
of carrying his body are inescapably those of a young (perhaps even
younger than the actor actually is) twenty-first century American.
Despite an admirably grizzled beard, he can't help giving the
effect of a high school actor sprinkling some white powder in his
hair to play an old man.
sings the songs and tells the jokes. But he can't give Tevye the
gravitas he needs for us to feel that this little man's small
experiences are worth our respect and sympathy.
cannot fault Nyman's singing, acting or
hard work. It is just that you will always be aware you are watching
a performer and almost never catch even a glimpse of the character.
Tevye so dominates the show that a lack of created reality there
makes it difficult for the world around him to be established and
sustained. Judy Kuhn is a strong presence in the thankless role of
Tevye's wife, but you will have difficulty telling the various
daughters apart or even feel more than a costuming difference between
the Jewish and Gentile characters.
– it may be the
Menier's limited stage, or the decision to play with the actors in
the centre and the audience on three sides – gets in the way of
director Trevor Nunn's usual mastery of creating strong stage
pictures. Things feel cluttered any time more than a handful of
characters are onstage, and the big musical numbers are particularly
unable to find pleasing shapes.
obligations?) lead most revivals to adapt Jerome Robbins's original
choreography for at least two big numbers, To Life and the iconic
bottles-on-heads Wedding Dance. And so choreographer Matt Cole shares
credit with Robbins.
the Robbins-inspired dances lose too much of
their majesty in a general clutter, and the Cole numbers, like the
opening Tradition, are just shapeless.
ago a local New York
City bread company ran an ad campaign that featured photos of black,
Chinese and otherwise identifiably ethnic people biting happily into
a sandwich, with the tagline 'You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy
Levy's rye bread'.
The same is true of Fiddler On The Roof, even in this too-rarely-more-than-just-adequate production.
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Review - Fiddler On The Roof - Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre 2018