Chatting with LIOR from Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on The Roof is currently playing at The Capitol Theatre, following a run at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. Anthony Warlow stars in this brand new production, with a stellar cast including Sigrid Thornton, Mark Mitchell and LIOR.

During the show’s run in Sydney, Bec Caton will be chatting with some of the cast members to see what the experience has been like so far and what they’re looking forward to for their time in Sydney.

First up, is singer/songwriter and ARIA winner LIOR.

LIOR as Motel. Photo: Jeff Busby.
LIOR as Motel. Photo: Jeff Busby.

What was your initial response when you were approached to audition for the role of Motel?

I was intrigued and I was curious and excited about it. I don’t really have a history or background in musical theatre but I knew Fiddler on the Roof was a beautiful story and I’d know enough musical theatre people in the past to know it’s a really joyous and beautiful world to be a part of. So I was intrigued and very excited about looking into it.

What compelled you to try it out? What appealed to you about the role?

A few things. One was meeting Roger Hodgman, the director, I could see that under his guidance it would be a very heartfelt and beautiful production. And of course, this cast and working besides Anthony Warlow and Sigrid Thorton was of great appeal and has been a great thrill. And to be honest the way it fits into my career, it is a fairly short season, which means I can dive into it and not put my usual career on hold for too long.

Did you have any preconceptions about theatre? And how does it compare to what you thought the experience would be like?

I didn’t grow up on musical theatre and I had only seen a handful of productions, and I think before Fiddler on the Roof I would have said there’s only a small portion of musical theatre productions I like. This has opened me up to and helped me appreciate and understand the art form more. I’ve just earned a greater respect for the people and everything that goes into making a production like this.

Have there been aspects of theatre that you’ve really enjoyed that you didn’t get to experience in music?

The acting has been the greatest revelation. I’ve really grown and it’s propelled me to look into it further and I’d love to do it more. I don’t think I expected to get the same escapism as I have only experienced with music. That has been a revelation.

Conversely, what do you miss about music that you don’t get to experience in theatre?

There’s a buzz in writing that I get in creating and that’s slowed down but the season is short enough that I don’t feel like I’m distancing myself for too long from the joy of creation and the spark you get when you write something new that you’re excited by.

How did you approach the challenge of acting on stage? Did you find that overwhelming or exciting?

I was very lucky to have had the support of Roger [Hodgman], but also the resident director Pip Mushin really coached me through. Roger’s style is one in which he lets the actor creatively guide his decision and I was quite blown away by the level of freedom that Roger gave a beginner actor like me, but I think ultimately what he was after is an authenticity and believability in mine and everyone else’s performance. I think Roger understands that in order to do that it’s important to let the actor guide at least the initial decision making in their performance. So whilst it was challenging, it all felt very natural because it came from me.

You’ve discussed how this musical has a meaningful connection to your family and your heritage. How has playing this role been important to you and enabled you to explore that connection more?

It’s a really touching story, it’s a beautiful story and I don’t think I’m the only one. It’s been quite common for cast members to get genuinely emotional in certain parts of it. It’s filled with joy and light but it’s also a heartfelt and tragic story as well.

On a personal level, it’s a microcosmic tale of the historical oppression of the Jewish people and as someone born into a generation where I was still very close to my grandparents, who were directly holocaust survivors, it cuts deep into that and reconnects me with my identity as an offspring of survivors of the greatest tragedy that the Jewish people have experienced. It’s deep on many levels.

Have you found that people have approached you about how seeing this show has been very meaningful to them because of that?

It’s such a well-known story amongst the Jewish community so I haven’t had too many people express surprise at that. But there have been a lot of tears in the theatre and people have told me they’ve cried throughout the show and laughed and experienced a gamete of emotions. I think it’s more that this production has been very successful in its authenticity and really extracting the full dynamic range of emotion that’s contained in the play.

What’s your favourite moment in the show?

Originally, I did a performance of ‘Far From the Home I Love’ that Hodel sings to Teyve, and I think, for me, that’s the most touching song. I remember when I watched the film, that’s the moment I cried. That’s just so beautiful. I think ‘Do You Love Me’ is also a stunning song. Personally, the scene where I am confronting Teyve about asking him to let me marry Tzeitel, that for me is my favourite moment. Because I get the great honour of having a personal acting interaction with Anthony, which is such a great thrill. But also in the context of the story I really connect to the character because Motel and Tzeitel are really trying to open the door to break away from tradition because of true love. They still have a deep respect for the convention but they also recognise that you can’t oppress love and I think that’s a really powerful moment and it’s a real turning point in the story when Teyve’s door is opened.

What was a highlight from the Melbourne run, and what are you excited for about the run in Sydney?

Melbourne was all new and I was very nervous on the opening night of Melbourne having never really acted and didn’t know what it would feel like in front of an audience. We rehearsed very intensely but I’d never stepped out on to the stage and inhabited any other character other than myself. So that was confronting but also thrilling.

Now that the show is in motion I’m enjoying a couple of things. One is that the Capitol Theatre is a very beautiful theatre and is very flattering to this elegant set. And also now that we have had some runs, there’s a flow and there’s this great joy in exploring the detail of my character and perhaps trying things subtly different every night.

This musical is over 50 years old. Why do you think it’s important to keep telling these stories and what do you think this show has to offer that keeps brining audiences back?

I think the writing is extraordinary. Both the book and the song writing is phenomenal. It just taps very deeply into universal themes that are timeless. How tradition keeps communities together but through natural momentum of time generations feel that they need to move on and break away from that. And it’s that tension between what keeps people together and what propels people forward. And I think that tension is very universal to us as families, as communities, as societies and it will always be. So I think that’s why it’s managed to stand the test of time.

Fiddler On The Roof is playing at the Capitol Theatre until 8 May. Book tickets at Ticketmaster.

Bec Caton

Bec has a diploma in musical theatre and is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English. She is a freelance theatre writer in Sydney.

Bec Caton

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