Craig Revel-Horwood, more well known for his role as an acid-tongued judge on Strictly Come Dancing, directs the popular musical, remaining true to James Robbins' original direction and choreography, but with added musicality on stage.
Fiddler on the Roof tells the tale of a traditional Jewish milkman, Tvye, living in Tsarist Russia with his wife and five daughters. It is one of those musicals, a little like The Sound of Music, where everyone knows the words to the main songs but often forgets the dark undertones to the story. Tvye and his family, along with other Jews in the small town of Anakevta, are eventually driven out and persecuted by the Tsarist police.
Paul Michael Glaser, who played the revolutionary student Perchik in the Oscar winning 1971 film adaptation, takes on the role of Tevye. He gets a lot of laughs as the milkman stubborn in his views of the world, mainly because he has never known anything else. In comparison with Perchick (here played by Steven Bor), he doesn't fight against the oppression but accepts it. Glaser and Karen Mann, who plays Golde Tevye's wife, make a great comedy duo and beneath the squabbling they show real affection.
It is the music that makes Revel-Horwood's Fiddler on the Roof different. Tvye's daughters, Emily O'Keefe, Liz Singleton and Claire Petzal, are all strong singers. O'Keefe as Tzeitzal particularly stands out for her comic timing in "Matchmaker" and Liz Singleton for her moving rendition of "Far From Home". But Revel-Horwood and musical director Sarah Travis's main break from the past is the decision to have all the instruments played by the cast on stage as opposed to having a pit orchestra.
It adds an extra dimension to have an actual fiddler (Jennifer Douglas) perched on a roof instead someone miming. The dancing stands out as well, of course, with "To Life" revelry giving way to something more menacing when the Russian youths' cossack dancing alternates with the traditional Jewish dancing, a sign of what is to come.
There are some elements of Fiddler on the Roof which seem quite dated, and the Yiddish/ Russian accents are at times quite shaky and distracting.
But Revel-Horwood, his production team and the multi-talented cast successfully bring this beloved stage musical to life.
- Joanna Ing