Fiddler on the Roof is one for the fans

Fiddler on the Roof is one of “those shows”. It’s frequently mentioned as people’s favourite musical, and one they were brought up on. For those people, this is a fine, if workmanlike, production. For the rest of us, however, it’s more of a mixed bag.

Fiddler on the Roof. Sigrid Thornton, Anthony Warlow. Photo by Jeff Busby
Fiddler on the Roof. Sigrid Thornton, Anthony Warlow. Photo by Jeff Busby

Joseph Stein’s book takes time to get going, dealing with village politics for much of the first act while giving Jerry Bock’s music and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics room to shine (which they do, particularly in Anthony Warlow’s more than capable hands). It is only in the second act, unusually, that the book begins to really come into its own.

In many ways, it feels like this production is mirroring that. The first act presents the serviceable book in a serviceable fashion, before opening up in much the same way as the town of Anatevka is opening to outside forces, represented here by the local constable (David Whitney).

Richard Roberts’ set is effective, with its silhouetted homes girding the community and representing the strength of their tradition. In fact, the set provides the evening’s most affecting image towards the end of the show. Paul Jackson’s exposed lighting rig, on the other hand, proved more of a distraction.

Warlow as Tevye was in turns put-upon and rambunctious (particularly in the show-stopping “If I Were a Rich Man”), while the tragically miscast Sigrid Thornton seemed unsure of her characterisation of Golde and, especially in the first act, in very poor voice. Also in less than stellar voice (or at least not entirely stylistic voice) was Lior as Motel, with his “Miracle of Miracles” failing to achieve much brilliance, despite his acting being more than acceptable.

As the matchmaker Yente, Nicki Wendt felt desperately under-utilised, a problem not easily solved in a show written half a century ago. Mark Mitchell, on the other hand, was just enough as the spurned match, Lazar Wolf.

But the evening belonged to the secondary daughters, if you will, and their beaux. Monica Swayne and Blake Bowden as Hodel and Perchik, respectively, brought beautiful on-stage chemistry to their roles, and Jessica Vickers and Jensen Overend wrung as much as they could from the slightly under-written roles of Chava and Fyekda.

Fans of Fiddler will be more than happy with this solid staging, although it is unlikely to gain many new fans.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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