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A CurtainUp London London Review
Fiddler on the Roof

Even the worst husband is better than no husband.
---- Yente, the Matchmaker
Fiddler on the Roof
Henry Goodman as Tevye
(Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
Henry Goodman heads a sparkling revival of Fiddler on the Roof at London's Savoy Theatre. Stepping into the role which for many years was inhabited by Topol (I heard, aged 70, he was still playing Tevye, last year in New Zealand) Goodman twinkles his way through this musical set in a Russian shtetl in 1905. Lindsay Posner's production was first produced in Sheffield for the winter holiday season and good reviews have propelled it into London. Is it deserved? Most assuredly.

This is a feel good musical, full of human spirit. It highlights the concerns that many families have about the men their daughters choose to marry. Of course Tevye and Golde (Beverley Klein), besides being blessed with five daughters, also have the problem of coping with being displaced from their homes and having to embark on a new life, far away in a strange country. The night I saw Fiddler grandparents who remembered the musical from its first London showing in the 1960s were introducing it to their grandchildren. The musical itself has become their heritage.

I haven't seen Fiddler onstage before so I am unable to enlighten you as to the new elements which Lindsay Posner brings to the show, but I suspect like the opening number, he has pretty much stuck with "Tradition". The set is wooden towers of higgeldy piggeldy planks with a roof for the eponymous fiddler to play from and tiny glowing lanterns to bring life to the homes. When the candles are lit for the Sabbath, the whole set is bathed in a rich yellow light. Of course the wedding celebration is a highpoint as Tzeitel (Frances Thorburn) and Motel the tailor (Gareth Kennerley) tie the knot or break the glass, with wonderful male dancers twirling with gravity defying glasses held high on hats. The start of the cruel pogroms as evidenced by the Cossack raid on the village is distressing.

Much of the show is dependent on the character of the milkman, Tevye (Henry Goodman). From the three eldest of his daughters, each chooses a husband increasingly less to his liking. Tzeitel turns down the rich butcher to wed her tailor. Hodel (Alexandra Silber) is attracted to a dissident intellectual from another area, Perchick (Damian Humbley), who is sent to Siberia where they face hardship. Chava (Natasha Broomfield) falls in love with a non Jew, a Russian, Fyedka (Michael Conway) which tests her father's patience to breaking point. Henry Goodman shows his versatility as an actor with great comedic instinct but also as a singer and dancer, bringing to life the wonderful dances of Jerome Robbins' (born Jerome Rabinovitz to a Jewish Immigrant family in New York) choreography.

It is probably unfair to single out individuals in the superb ensemble but I thought the dancing was of a very high standard and I greatly enjoyed the merging of the Jewish dances with the Cossack routines. Of the daughters, Hodel's (Alexandra Silber) singing voice is outstanding. It is a production brimming over with characters and earthy atmosphere and feels fresh and full of verve. Of course the eleven piece band is strong and greatly enhances the show. I was surprised at how many of the tunes I knew and could leave the theatre humming.

For a review of a recent Broadway revival of the show, which includes a song list, go here
Book by Joseph Stein
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Lindsay Posner

Starring: Henry Goodman, Beverley Klein, Frances Thorburn, Alexandra Silber, Natasha Broomfield, Julie LeGrand, Gareth Kennerley, Damian Humbley, Michael Conway
With: Adrien Mastrosimone, Nicole Turner/Olivia Raden/Kate Rawlings, Jessica Hargreaves/Jessica Grant/Kirsty Hickey, Tomm Coles, Alex Ruocco, Vincent Pirillo, Victor McGuire, Steve Fortune, Juliet Alderdice, Anders Jensen, Tom Lorgan, Leon Webster, Miriam Elwell-Sutton, Wendy-Lee Purdy, Matt Zimmerman
Choreography: Jerome Robbins and Sammy Dallas Bayes
Orchestrations: Larry Blank and Sophie Solomon
Design: Peter McKintosh
Lighting: Peter Mumford
Sound: Gareth Owen
Additional Musical Staging: Kate Flatt
Conductor: Jae Alexander
Running time: Three hours with one interval
Box Office: 0870 840 1111
Booking to 29th September 2007
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 30th May 2007 performance at the Savoy Theatre, Savoy Place, London WC2 (Tube: Charing Cross)
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©Copyright 2007, Elyse Sommer.
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