The original 1964 Broadway production of Fiddler On The Roof was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine, and ran for a record-setting total of 3,242 performances before opening in the West End in 1967. Over 50 years later, the show is back in London, now playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Here’s why we loved it:
With music by the legendary Jerry Boch and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, there are so many iconic songs. Here are some highlights:
- The show opens with the super catchy ‘Tradition’ (if you know this one, I apologise because even just the mere mention of it will get it stuck in your head)
- Next is ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’, an endearing song by the three eldest sisters
- The famous ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ is brought to new life by Andy Nyman as Tevye. At the beginning of the song he is subdued, using the ‘Daidle deedle daidle’s’ to emote his back pain, contrasting to the end of the song where he is vivaciously dancing around the whole stage
- There are poignant moments in ‘Do You Love Me?’ sung beautifully and emotively by Judy Kuhn as Golde and Nyman as Tevye, as well as the heartbreaking ‘Chavaleh (Little Bird)’
- The orchestra are superb, feeling close to the heart of the story as they regularly join the cast on stage
‘The Wedding/Bottle Dance’
Hear me out: men dancing with bottles balancing on their heads. If nothing else, I think it’s worth seeing the show for this one scene. Jerome Robbins’ Tony Award-winning choreography is intact for this number, which is even more impressive in the small space.
Menier Chocolate Factory
The original London production opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre, and there have been revivals at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and the London Palladium. I was intrigued to see how it would work in a smaller space, which is done exquisitely thanks to Trevor Nunn’s direction.
The small-town vibe of the Shtetl feels realistic in the space, and when Tevye turns away from the cast to speak to God or to think through his thoughts out loud, there is a real interaction with the audience. There is so much joy in Act I (particularly in the songs ‘To Life’ and ‘Miracle Of Miracles’) and I felt as an audience member that I was part of the celebration. The intimate setting captures the heartbreak of some of the sadder scenes, when we watch Hodel leave her family and home, or watching Tevye and Chava’s relationship collapse.
Fresher than ever
Although the plot of a Jewish milkman in Christian Russia marrying off his five daughters is quite specific to the time and place, the writing is funny and witty, and is still relevant. As the population of Anatevka is displaced, it’s hard not to think about issues which refugees still face in 2018.
Fiddler On The Roof plays at the Menier until 9 March; visit the venue website for more information.