‘Fiddler on the Roof – Jnr’ is a musical based on the book by Joseph Stein, which in turn was based on ‘Tevye the Dairyman and his Daughters’ a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem written in 1900. The music is by Jerry Bock and the lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Initially, investors and some in the media worried that ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ might be considered ‘too Jewish’ to attract mainstream audiences and yet it went on to win three Oscars and two Golden Globe Awards and held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years.
This delightful 65-minute show by Bel Canto Productions is at the Old Mill Theatre on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road in South Perth. It has curtain up at 7.30 pm on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th July with matinées on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th at 2.00 pm. The houses are full, but you may get a cancellation.
The scene: 1905 in the shtetl (a small Jewish village) of Anatevka, in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia.
The set (designer George Boyd): The rear of the stage has a full-sized cyclorama, for the superb AV projections (Blake Jenkins). The stage wings have black drapes.
The scenery comprises one impressive, multipurpose unit about the size of a garden shed, mounted on castors. It has a ladder to the roof – for the fiddler. The outside front wall splits and opens to reveal a 1900’s kitchen complete with old basins and jugs. When the unit was turned through 180 degrees it became the sitting room of the poor farming family.
Lighting design by experts Don Allen and John Spurling was well up to their normal standard.
Sound and AV operation was by Justin Friend. The music was a CD supplied by the copyright holders. The backing music’s orchestration was filled with depth and life from the large group of musicians.
Stage manager Janene Zampino and her new assistant manager, Theola Wolf, were helped by a very hard-working crew of Katherine Friend, Orlando Tompkin-Drew and Matilda Jenkins. Very well planned, almost instant on and off scene changes. The director and stage manager had obviously agreed on which were the sets’ exits and which part of the wings were the entrance / exit areas for the massive 35-member cast – slick. In many musicals there is a mad rush with both groups queuing then fighting each other and neither win. Knowing the depth of the Old Mill’s wings I was amazed to see the ‘house unit’ disappear off the side a couple of times.
A young boy stands on the roof playing his violin (Sean Cleaver – and the bow movements matched the music). This is the home of Tevye (Patrick O’Donoghue – fabulous) a poor Jewish milkman with five daughters. Tevye explains the traditions of the Jews in Anatevka, where their lives are as precarious as a fiddler on a roof.
At Tevye’s home, everyone is busy preparing for the Friday Sabbath meal. His wife, Golde (Mia Duplock – perfect voice) orders their five daughters, Tzeitel (Lucinda Marley), Hodel (Sarah Ganon), Chava (Chelsey Ward), Shprintze (Cadence Smythe) and Bielke (Jemima Lee) to prepare the table and candlesticks. They were Shabbat candlesticks – single, not the multi-stem Menorah – but the whole village entered holding candles, filling the aisles of the auditorium as though it was Hanukkah. A spectacular sight.
Yente (Sienna Freeman), the village matchmaker tells Golde that the wealthy butcher Lazar Wolf (Liam Barr), wants to wed their eldest daughter, 19 yrs. old Tzeitel. The next two daughters, Hodel and Chava are thrilled, as they cannot marry until after the eldest. However, Tzeitel wants to marry her childhood friend, Motel (Adrian Menner) the tailor, but what a Matchmaker says – goes!
The local bookseller tells Tevye of pogroms (slaughters) and evictions. A passing student, Perchik (Ryan Boultbee) hears their conversation and suggests they act now! Tevye invites him home for the Sabbath meal. After Shabbat, Tevye meets Lazar for a drink at the village inn, where the Russian youths (Lauren Boultbee, Jordan Mears, Sarah Bell, Anneka McLennan, Brontë McLennan, Darcey McDonald, Hannah-Jayde Keppler, Eloise Keppler, Tamara Wolf) are showing off their impressive dancing and balancing skills, then Sasha (David Bell) does a Cossack dance. Tevye meets a Christian Russian Constable (Cameron Clear) who has full control over the Jews. However, the Constable has sympathy for the Jewish community and gives Tevye a friendly warning that there is to be a protest against them.
Hodel mocks Perchik’s Marxist interpretation of a Bible story, in turn he criticises Hodel for the outdated traditions of Judaism. Tevye’s third daughter, the bookworm Chava, is teased by some gentile (Christian) youths. Fyedka (Raynon Pascoe), protects her. He loans Chava a book, instigating love.
Tzeitel and Motel’s wedding day arrives, and all the villagers join the marital ceremony (complete with chuppah – canopy – and glass breaking) carried out by the Rabbi (Declan Marley). The celebration ends abruptly when Russians ride into the village. They upset the party, wreck the wedding gifts and wound Perchik. Russians expel Jewish families from their villages.
Other parts: Michael Phillips played Mordcha, Rowan Marley was Mendel, Toby Crestani was Avram and Xavier Postma was Yussel.
Directors Katherine Freind and her Mum Neroli Sweetman can be VERY proud of their work and their magnificent cast. I checked the chorus for the usual mimers and closed mouths – not one in sight. Every youngster gave the show their all, both in voice and with their dancing. The Russian accents were most impressive, hard to believe that some children were as young as 8. The cast had learned the various hand mannerisms and delivery style of the East Europeans.
Choreographer Matilda Jenkins had a massive task with 35 performers, but the groups moved around without pandemonium. The dancing was perfectly synchronised. It ranged from the forbidden couple dancing romantically, to the energetic Cossack dance.
With working in Merriden (congrats – or should that be Mazel Tov? on your new post) musical director, Justin Freind must have found the experience of training the singers here in Perth horrendous. A CD backing track means that all the singers must be in the same key, with no possible adjustment as may take place with live instruments.
The show had pace, warmth and most importantly a memorable performance of song and dance. Many congratulations.