‘Fiddler on the Roof’ meets expectations

The Menier Chocolate Factory was kind enough to invite Roar to see their production of Fiddler on the Roof – a classic musical about a tradition where we meet Tevye, a poor milkman and father of five daughters. As according to tradition, his three eldest should all get married soon with a man of Tevye’s choice, but they all make their own way instead. During the musical, we see how the contrast between tradition and the modern world play out, with a more serious backdrop of anti-Semitism and revolution.

The night opened with a monologue from main character Tevye, comparing their lives to one of a fiddler balancing on a roof: “It isn’t easy… You may ask, why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word; tradition!” This led us into the first musical act of the evening where we were introduced to the town of Anatevka and its citizens.

The intimate staging helped the audience really feel as though we were, in fact, visiting Anatevka. Even as the audience was walking in, actors were already walking across the stage doing everyday tasks, accompanied by live music. The audience was seated at three different sides of the stage, which naturally resulted in the actors occasionally not facing us. This was luckily made up for by relatively good sound, and lavalieres providing us with clear audio. The small venue also faced a slight problem in terms of acoustics, where the live music sometimes became too big for the room leaving us with a slightly annoying treble, but this was a minor grievance.

A view from outside: the Menier Chocolate factory

I was thoroughly impressed with the acting. In such a small venue, it would be easy to spot any out-of-character move, but as far as I can tell that never occurred. They all made memorable impressions, but we have to address Tevye specifically. Andy Nyman managed to convey both Tevye’s love for his daughters and his beliefs in such a way that even when he acts irrationally, you sympathise with him. While he clearly sees that there is a new world out there, he struggles to adapt, yet always retains some wit and humour. The ever-famous “If I were a rich man” was well-performed, you could clearly see that Nyman made his own interpretation of the character, and a good one too.

Again, given the small size of the stage, I started to worry whether we should see any dancing, as you would expect in a musical. The dance acts came surprisingly late, and were perhaps a bit shorter or less frequent than in other productions of Fiddler, but they were nevertheless good and much welcomed. From that point on I couldn’t do anything but sit back and enjoy the show. Even the absurd dream sequence became enjoyable once you accepted the format. Throughout the play, we were shown important features from Judaism, which still felt universal enough to strike a chord in everyone in the audience.

It did not feel as though this production brought anything new to the table, but then again it’s hard to tell if that was its main motive. After all, this is a musical, and it certainly fulfilled my requirements for being good; great actors, singers, dancers, and an altogether enjoyable evening. What’s not to love?

If you want to catch this amazing production in action, it runs between 23rd November 2018 – 9th March 2019: find tickets here!

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