On The Roof
Menier Chocolate Factory Winter 2018-2019; Playhouse Theatre Spring-Summer 2019
On The Roof is a great Broadway musical.
It 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 respond
curious way it is actually an excellent Christmas season show – it is,
after all, about family and tradition and reconciliation. What's not to
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
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 Nineteenth Century.
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.
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
contractual 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.
Robbins-inspired dances lose too much of their majesty in a general
clutter, and the Cole numbers, like the opening Tradition, are just
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