Review: Fiddler on the Roof

PUBLISHED: 14:42 05 October 2016 | UPDATED: 14:52 05 October 2016

Simon Vardakis as Tevye. Credit: McPherson Photography

Simon Vardakis as Tevye. Credit: McPherson Photography

Archant

Never was a standing ovation so richly deserved than the production I was lucky enough to be part of at the Bristol Hippodrome last night.

Simon Vardakis as Tevye and Robbie Burns as butcher Lazar Wolf, with Grace MacDonald as Tevye's daughter Tzeitel and Alex Milner as tailor Motel, her intended. Credit: McPherson Photography Simon Vardakis as Tevye and Robbie Burns as butcher Lazar Wolf, with Grace MacDonald as Tevye's daughter Tzeitel and Alex Milner as tailor Motel, her intended. Credit: McPherson Photography

I say part of, as for the three hours I was glued to my seat I felt as if I was catapulted into turn of the 20th century Russia and was a bystander in the peasant village depicted in BLOC Productions’ version of one of the most successful shows in musical theatre history, Fiddler on the Roof.

Such was the amazing acting, compelling choreography and captivating staging, I was totally immersed and completely forgot I was having an evening at the theatre.

Even ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ I couldn’t have seen anything better in the West End - not bad for a local am-dram group.

Featuring the songs Matchmaker, Sunrise Sunset and If I Were A Rich Man, the story centres on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family’s lives.

Simon Vardakis and Lucy Pope as Tevye and wife Golde. Credit: McPherson Photography Simon Vardakis and Lucy Pope as Tevye and wife Golde. Credit: McPherson Photography

He has to contend with the strong-willed actions of his three eldest daughters, who want to marry for love, going against the customs of his village and also the threat of an edict by the Tsar to evict all the Jews from their village.

Bristol’s award-winning production company cast Clevedon-based actor Simon Vardakis as Tevye and it couldn’t have chosen any better as the glue which holds the show together.

His comic timing, akin to a Russian version of Cornish comedian Jethro and precision delivery had the whole audience in the palm of his hands, taking us on a rollercoaster of emotions as he is constantly being torn between tradition and love for his family.

The rest of the huge cast were also brilliant, with notable performances by Lucy Pope as Tevye’s wife Golde and Katherine Sharp as his second oldest daughter Hodel and Weston’s own thespian and theatrical producer Robbie Burns as butcher Lazar Wolf.

A special mention also has to go to a double casting of 44 children who were all extremely professional and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves throughout all the singing and dancing.

The scene changes were flawless and the sets mesmerising, particularly one which depicted a typical Sabbath day, complete with twinkling candles and beautiful singing from behind a cloth screen, eluding to every other household in the village worshipping in unison.

And a dramatic one where a ghostly apparition appears above a bed, cackling and wailing maniacally was nothing short of genius in its clever staging and effects and I also loved the freeze-framed action which was executed with perfect precision every time.

The undoubted star of the show however, was the spectacular choreography – all credit to Naomi Jeffery, for organising a cast of many into perfectly in-sync sequences of Russian dancing, all kicking Cossack legs, and underneath and in and out of moving arched-arms en-masse.

The blurb for the production says: “It is as relevant a political and social story now as it was half a century ago, and has appeal for all generations. Its universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion, leaving audiences crying tears of laughter, joy and sadness.”

I can definitely vouch for this as I have rarely experienced such an interactive theatre experience with members of the audience snorting, cheering, and giving in to loud outbursts of laughter reacting to Tevye’s various dilemmas.

And of course, I don’t mind admitting to joining in with many a tear shed in the sad moments too.

If you have become a stranger to the theatre and are looking for a performance which will drag you back into its bosom, I heartily recommend this one.

Break with the main theme of the production – tradition - you won’t regret it!

Fiddler On The Roof will be at the Bristol Hippodrome, in St Augustine’s Parade, until Saturday, October 8 with performances at 7.30pm each night and also at 2.30pm on Saturday.

Tickets, priced £11.90-£27.90, are available from www.atgtickets.com/bristol or 08448 713012.

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