Fiddler on the Roof

Date 8th November 2019
Society Battle Amateur Theatrical Society
Venue Battle Memorial Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Mark Evans
Musical Director Oscar Smith

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

One of the longest running musicals from the book of Joseph Stein, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and the music of Jerry Bock. Tevye is a struggling dairyman with five daughters, who’s having difficulty with increasing social change and political disorder preceding WW1, situated in a fictional poor village in Russia. A time when Jewish communities were fleeing their homes to make lives in America, Europe and even the Holy Land. This subject still poignant today.

Directing in his exciting creative style, one of his favourite musicals and together with the versatile Oscar Smith as MD, this well known and loved show was bound to be a winner for Mark Evans. The full house was soaked up in this atmospheric, absorbing production, set as a first, in ‘a round’ with the orchestra invisible but on stage. The front seating was removed and replaced by two rows either side with benches separating the working space. We were in the action too. Four auditorium exits were used as well as via the stage, with two sets of steps leading to the floor.  This enabled Mark to use a huge cast of 23 named parts supported by the 21 strong ensemble to move in and out so very slickly.

Straw bales were strategically placed with silent rolling furniture arranged below the stage line, a lit lamp standard to one side, benches of three sides with two rows of audience seating either side and just enough space for Alfie Rolph to operate his sound desk. Outbuildings designed and constructed for the stage by Craig Gibbons appeared as vertical wooden slats with orchestra placed behind. A sturdy cart pulled and pushed well, and super collection of props were apparent. Lighting was dimmed and subtle and the auditorium rang with bird song.  The three-man team created some interesting and atmospheric effects with colour including purples – the snow machine provided the chill factor. Notable was the gliding entrance and manipulation of the excellent Fruma-Sarah with Tamara Leggett scaring not only Golde and Tevye but the audience too.

The 7 strong band played the wonderful varied score with Oscar leading, also playing  accordion. Singing was of high quality with good harmony – sometimes serious and melancholy, others lighter and humorous. The haunting fiddling came from Nuri Koseoglu, with agile Oli Mann taking on the role. The sound throughout was perfectly balanced, with every word of script and vocal beautifully clear from both chorus and principals alike. An admirable sustained note from Alex Roberts! 

Dave Wellmann played Tevye with a twinkle in his eye and easy tone of voice – I enjoyed his interpretation particularly with his chats to God but also his capturing us his audience into his world of struggle, his fight to keep with tradition with his delightful five daughters.  Supporting was Golde his wife with a strong performance from Maxine Roach – very good together in the ‘Do I Love You’ duet. Alex Wengraf-Hewitt as Perchik the young  student paired well with daughter Hodel – Ruth Parsons giving a lovely performance of ‘Far from the Home I Love’. Lucy Bishop as the eldest daughter Tzeitel got her way and married timid Motel the Tailor, ably played by Nathan McDonald, again good pairing. Plenty of interesting cameos that were well cast and executed – Richard Foster portrayed a most convincing Lazer Wolf the wealthy butcher who lost his first wife and then is let down by the matchmaker! The gossiping Matchmaker Widow Yente played by Rhona Vallender had some good business, particularly enjoying her secreting biscuits into her bag from Golde’s table!

Costuming came from Libby Grainger and her assistants with their usual attention – authentic Jewish detail, the peasant style with head scarves for the ladies, hats good, uniforms and boots sound. Winter additions for travel and warmth also perfect. Make up was well designed and applied, and it was nice to see so many natural beards. A first-class production.