Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof
Book by Jospeh Stein. Music by Jerry Bock. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Rockdale Musical Society. Rockdale Town Hall. March 2 - 11, 2018.

The characters of Fiddler on the Roof remind the world of the effects of oppression in one of the most effective ways possible – through theatre and music. Though set in the mythical, 19th century town of Anatevka, the effects of change and discrimination faced by that small community are not too far away from the changing and troubled places in the world today.

Director and designer Colin Peet – with assistance from his brother Bob – gives this production the faithful attention that this gem of musical theatre demands. The costumes carefully recreate the historical, traditional and economic background of the time. The accents and gestures recreate the distinctiveness of a small Jewish community immersed in its beliefs and traditions. The blocking and choreography reinforce the authenticity of the period – and Jerome Robbins’ well-loved original conceptual vision.

With a talented cast – and over twenty musicians led by Peter Sampson – Peet brings Tevye, his family and the community of Anatevka to convincing life in a production that finds both the humour and pathos of the drama – and the power and beauty of the music. This is a musical that requires believable acting as well as fine singing, and this cast assures both.

Adam Scicluna recreates the role of Tevye with a clarity and strength that finds all the devout and social dimensions of this character so well-written by Joseph Stern and so accurately translated into song by Bock and Harnick.

Scicluna has a strong and commanding stage presence and the vocal range that’s needed to take Tevye through a complexity of notes and emotions. This role is a tour de force in musical theatre, and one too often compared with its original creator, but Scicluna’s portrayal is singularly perceptive and totally his own.

As Golde, Charmaine Gibbs brings similar musical and theatrical experience to the production. Her Golde is feisty, strong but caring and protective of her daughters and the values she holds dear. Gibbs’ voice adds intensity and power to the role, especially in the duets with Scicluna. Sunrise, Sunset is a highlight of this production, as are Tevye’s Dream and Do You Love Me?

Together Scicluna and Gibbs guide and shelter their five daughters, yet eventually bend to their bids for independence and liberation – epitomised in the clever manipulation of their parents by Veronica Clavijo as Tzeitel, Emilie Davila as Hodel and Isabella McIntosh as Chava. All three find the emotional turmoil of these young women as well as the clear, controlled delivery of their songs and the accompanying choreography. Emilie Davila’s interpretation of Far From the Home I Love is especially poignant.

Adrian Espulso brings humour to the role of Motel, and Tim Wotherspoon finds the intensity of quiet rebellion in the role of Perchik. Both also showed their physical prowess in the complicated and fast-paced choreography required in the dance segments.

These are but seven of the forty-five strong cast that brings this production to vivid life on stage augmented by digital projections that give a little extra depth and warmth to the set and lighting that highlights the changing hopes and fears of the characters.

The music of Fiddler echoes the traditional pace and rhythm of the time. Choreographer Chris Bamford has augmented the original choreography with new ideas that, though totally in keeping with the traditional steps and gestures, breathe a little new life to the chorus numbers. He and Peet have insured the choreography is as carefully rehearsed and controlled as the vocal work. This makes the ‘massed’ cast numbers particularly effective and powerful.

‘Tis always a pity that musicals have such relatively short runs, but Rockdale Town Hall is capacious and hopefully this production of Fiddler will play to large and appreciative audiences.

Carol Wimmer

Photographer: Rod Herbert

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