Fiddler On The Roof

Date 18th March 2015
Society Jewish Theatre Group Manchester
Venue Middleton Arena
Type of Production Musical
Director Robert Margolis
Musical Director Paul Salter
Choreographer Debbie Hilton

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

‘Fiddler’ is a beloved classic - a musical about joy, heartache, change, faith, family, tradition and most of all...LIFE. To say that this, the JTC’s milestone 40th anniversary production does the show justice would be somewhat of an understatement!

Jeremy Kay’s Tevye is the glue that holds this show together, he avoids easy laughs, cheap ethnic humour or the dozen other traps that many performances of Tevye fall into. He gives us a real man, simple at heart, yet with a complex enough spirit to see that the changes rocking his small village will reverberate for his people through the coming century.

Throughout the course of the tale, Tevye sees his eldest three daughters of five pair off with their suitors. The three pairs of lovers were all well matched, performances I found particularly favourable of the young couples were those of; Harriet Dean as Chava who demonstrated the triple threat she is to a very high calibre indeed, Jennifer Simmons as Hodel offered us splendid acting ability which was supported by a glorious voice, delivering a gorgeous rendition of ‘Far From The Home I Love’ and Dean Simons as Perchick who has a terrific stage command with a very warm and inviting performance supported by a wholesome singing voice too.

Although ‘Fiddler’ is very much Tevye's story (it is based on the book, ‘Tevye And His Daughters’ by Sholem Aleichem), many other characters are very important too, adding to the heart of the show. Tevye's wife, ‘Golde’ played by Heather Bowman is stubborn, opinionated and hardworking. Toe to toe with her equally stubborn, opinionated and hardworking husband, leading to some entertaining and tender moments between the two in “Do You Love Me?”.

With all the modern jukebox shows and high energy “punch, punch, punch” delivery which is all the rage at the moment, it was a breath of fresh air to be treated to a golden classic and in particular, one that I’m so fond of but haven’t seen for quite some time! That said; I’d forgotten just how long act one is! Although I did notice the length of the first half, I blame the numb bum, I wasn’t bothered in the slightest due to the degree I was enjoying the show!

It was a treat to have the large orchestra accompany the production under the baton of Paul Salter, the team of able musicians were on form, adding the ambiance to the piece whether joyful or melancholic was rich and whole.

The production was directed and choreographed by brother / sister duo Robert Margolis and Debbie Hilton, both have guided this show with vigour to present a mighty final product. 
I found it somewhat confusing when cast members would tell us they were going into the house then exit into the wings (not the house) then say they were going to the Barn and would exit into the house – only minor but struck me as a little odd.

Jo Tuck’s Yenta (the meddling matchmaker) started out at the right tone but I felt, as she got more laughs, she quickly built her role up larger and larger which almost got carried away and grew too large and out of balance with everyone else’s performance.

The sound crew were still finding their feet with this show as a few ques were missed.  However, while on the subject of sound; the full ensemble singing was beautiful and complete with clear harmonies which were easily identifiable – ‘Sabbath Prayer’ in particular supporting this statement.  ‘Tevye’s Dream’ was another highlight of this production, packed with good fun and satire, Fruma Sara belts out her gloriously disturbing solo on a large spinning apparatus - It almost escaped me noticing that her pearls were missing! 

A perfectly solemn set by the boys at Proscenium though I did feel it was a shame for the House to be positioned so far upstage, creating mounds of dead space in the earlier scenes which ought to have been fairly intimate.

As sad as it is when the villagers are forced to leave their home and separate from each other, it is apparent to us (the audience) that there are no geographical limits to a community. The people of Anatevka will remain a community and family no matter where they go, and the messages of this piece such as having a love of life, a commitment to family and pride and acceptance of one's community will resonate with me long after the final bow.

Many congratulations to the entire production team, committee and company with this production, one that truly marks such a momentous occasion for the group!