Did critics think Trevor Nunn's Fiddler on the Roof was a miracle of miracles?
The hit musical returns for a new production at Menier Chocolate Factory
"Walking into the Menier Chocolate Factory is like walking into a shtetl in early 20th century Russia, dark and smoky. The wooden slats and gable-roofed shacks of Robert Jones' set embrace you. Alongside you, stand figures in well-worn black, dusty brown and grey, their heads covered, their prayer aprons poking out from their heavy coats. Every detail has a texture, a delicacy and authenticity."
"This is true of each aspect of Trevor Nunn's magnificent revival. You forget, or I do sometimes, Nunn's alchemist's ability to play Shakespeare like a musical and a musical like Shakespeare. But here it renders the ever-popular Fiddler into an extraordinarily emotional and powerful telling of the way that change affects the life of the milkman Tevye, his wife Golde and their five daughters, just as the pogroms against the Jewish people deprive them of their traditional home."
"Built over a long period, under the impassioned direction of Jerome Robbins, the musical, with its book by Joseph Stein (based on stories by Sholem Aleichem), music by Jerry Boch, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, is always tuneful but can appear hokey. Not here. Nunn and his excellent cast mine the meaning from each word and every note. Songs become soliloquies, dances the expression of deep psychological and sociological barriers. The result can't quite disguise the episodic nature of the second act, but it is nonetheless overwhelming and engrossing."
Ann Treneman, The Times
"Tevye talks tough but he is, essentially, a marshmallow. His humanity illuminates the entire production and the core cast, particularly Judy Kuhn as Golde, are pitch perfect.
"Sunrise, sunset: life flows on here, buoyed by familiar music, the melodies (including "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker") are haunting with the eight-person orchestra never missing a beat. The dancing, with choreography by Robbins and Matt Cole, is breathtaking, what with the Cossacks somersaulting and a wedding dance involving bottles on heads (don't ask, it's definitely against health and safety rules). The show could, at two hours and 45 minutes, be both a little shorter and sharper. But, otherwise, matchmaker, matchmaker, you've made them a hit."
Tim Bano, The Stage
"Nunn is a master of musicals, and one who knows the Menier space well. He builds a bustling village from nothing, whips up whirlwinds of motion and noise in split seconds, and makes the Menier's dungeon-theatre look vast and liveable in, almost, with huts of wood and a yard of compacted dust.
"It's great to see Judy Kuhn on a London stage as Tevye's wife Golde. She and Nyman get their rapport just right, which makes for a really sweet version of "Do You Love Me". Kuhn's face is full of confusion and agonising as this brand new concept of ‘love' creeps into her marriage to Tevye.
"But Nyman is without a doubt the best thing about this tight, trad revival. There's absolutely nothing showy about his Tevye. He doesn't over-egg the comedy, but instead recognises – as the whole production does – that this is a serious and sincere piece at heart."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
Despite its rather rudimentary story-line, the show remains as fresh as ever. Folk songs that were the product of affectionate pastiche – the creative trio's homage to ‘where poppa came from' – have such a core veracity, it's almost as if they were actually sung back in the day.
Nunn doesn't overplay the obvious grim pertinence of a tale in which ugly anti-Semitism smoulders and a population is sent packing overseas. In fact – wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles – the director of Les Mis, and who has been known to let things drag, keeps it nicely brisk. Perfect for this time of year.
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"Menier regular Andy Nyman is a very decent lead as Tevye: he's not really a quintessential musical theatre actor, but being a bit rough around the edges helps his cause here. With a magnificent beard and a stack of charisma, he puts in a hugely dedicated performance as a wearily loving father trying to do his best to bend with the tides of history."
"I realise there are some restrictions that apply when staging Fiddler, but this finely-crafted revival feels both entertaining and somewhat lacking a sense of purpose. The musical is unavoidably now a nostalgic one, but Nunn's dark-tinted revival stops it from wallowing. But what end is achieved by the grit? Why only cast actors who look like they might have passed for shtetl-dwellers? At a time when antisemitism is on the rise globally, there's certainly the potential for a politicised Fiddler, but that's not what we get here. It feels more like the naturalism is an aesthetic challenge Nunn set himself, which is fine, but his Fiddler feels more like a carefully restored museum piece than the vibrant thing a more radical production might have been."