REVIEW: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Playhouse Theatre) ★★★★★

Musical theatre masterpiece Fiddler On The Roof first premiered on Broadway in 1964 and was the first musical theatre production in history to reach 3,000 performances. The original production was highly acclaimed and won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, Score, Book, Direction and Choreography and is currently the seventeenth longest-running show in Broadway history. The original West End production opened in 1967 at Her Majesty’s Theatre and played for 2,030 performances, starring Topol as Tevye. Since then, the show has seen six Broadway revivals, two West End revivals, numerous UK tours and a highly successful 1971 film, again staring Topol, which won the Oscar for Best Score/Adaptation. This year, following a sold-out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory a new production of Fiddler On The Roof transfers to the West End for a limited run. This production is directed by Tony and Olivier award-winning director Trevor Nunn and magically transforms the Playhouse Theatre into an immersive space for this intimate show about family and tradition.

Based on Tevye and His Daughters by Sholem Aleichem, Fiddler On The Roof is set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia which was a western region of Imperial Russia that existed between 1791 to 1917 and allowed permanent residency by Jews. At the time, outside the Settlement Jewish residency was mostly forbidden in the Orthodox Christian Russian Empire. The show centres on Tevye and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon his family’s lives. Tevye endeavours to cope with the actions of his three oldest strong-willed daughters who wish to marry for love, each daughter’s choice of husband moving further away from the customs of the family’s Jewish faith and heritage. As an order comes from the Tsar that evicts the Jewish people from their little village of Anatevka, Tevye reflects that his family’s lives seem as precarious as the perch of a fiddler on a roof.

Featuring the iconic score including ‘Tradition’, ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’, ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ and ‘If I Were a Rich Man’, this production of Fiddler On The Roof stars Andy Nyman of Ghost Stories and Derren Brown acclaim as Tevye and four time Tony Award nominee and voice of Pocahontas Judy Kuhn as Golde. Completing the West End Cast are Nicola Brown playing Chava, Harriet Bunton as Hodel, Molly Osborne as Tzeitel, Stewart Clarke plays Perchik, Joshua Gannon as Motel and Matthew Hawksley is Fyedka. Judy Khun’s Golde is vocally outstanding and a seemingly perfect fit for Nyman’s Tevya, who often claims to be the head of the house. However, while Khun’s Golde is loyal to the man she’s learnt to love, it becomes apparent Golde is a driving force behind the family and Tevye is a very lucky man. As Tevye’s three oldest daughters Molly Osbourne as Tzeitel , Harriet Bunton as Hodel and Nicola Brown as Chava do exceptionally well as do the men they fall in love with, Joshua Gannon as Motel, Stewart Clarke play Perchik and Matthew Hawksley as Fyedka. Each couple teaching Tevye, Godle and the town of Anatevka that love comes in all forms and none should be denied. The role of Tevye is a mammoth task for any actor. Setting the pace of the show form his opening speech, Tevye often breaks the fourth wall directly speaking to the audience while also playing the show in real time and discussing his worries and options with the audience as they’re happening during the show. In addition to the written text, each actor that plays Tevye needs to bring a part of himself to the character to make him truthful, intimate and a loving father not only to his five daughters but to the town of Anatevka. Andy Nyman excels in these tasks and as a result his Tevye is absolutely sensational.

Trevor Nunn’s production of Fiddler On The Roof is a joyous revival showing great reverence to the original production. Not trying to reinvent the wheel, this production focuses on raw emotion and character work which is very refreshing in a climate where revivals or touring productions often miss the mark with their over complicated, stunt casted and gimmick driven revivals. Matt Cole has done an excellent job combining his choreography with the original Jerome Robbins choreography which was an absolute joy to see. One of the main stars on this production of Fiddler On The Roof is the incredible set design by Robert Jones. Encompassing the entire space at the Playhouse Theatre, the characters and story of Fiddler On The Roof spill out into the audience in this immersive production making the story all the more powerful. The simplicity of Nunn’s direction during the final song Anatevka coupled with Jone’s design as the characters leave their little village for the last time was a heartbreakingly beautiful spectacle.

Joyous, exuberant, funny and heart-breaking Trevor Nunn’s production of Fiddler On The Roof at the Playhouse Theatre is absolutely stunning. Due to the shows intimate setting and themes which are still painfully relevant today, the audience really feels like a resident of Anatevka as they share Tevye’s worries and joys throughout. With over 25,000 tickets at £20 or less across the run there’s never been a better time to celebrate tradition, visit Anatevka and see this excellent production of Fiddler On the Roof.

Reviewed by Stuart James
Photo: Johan Persson

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