Book: Joseph Stein
Music: Jerry Bock
Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick
Director: Alasdair Hawthorn
Choreographer: Jonathan Parsons
The Public Reviews Rating:
There are few musicals which rely so heavily on a single central character to carry the show, but Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof is one.
The success (or failure) of this show hangs on the casting of the iconic role of Tevye; the poor Jewish dairyman, father of five free-thinking daughters and defender of the much cherished and long-held traditions of his Jewish faith. In the hands of Jonathan Proctor, Theatre Guild of Glasgow have a star quality Tevye, a rich baritone of exquisite tone and power, Proctor imbues the role with wisdom, wit and a winning warmth, which will charm even the hardest of hearts. Proctor lights up the stage with every appearance and the stage feels less bright when he’s not there.
Fiddler is a show about tradition, however it is anything but traditional: it is unusual subject matter for a musical, at its heart the story is undeniably bleak, focussing as it does on a turbulent time in Russian history: the pogroms, the victimisation of the Jewish people and the eventual Russian diaspora. Depressingly, the story still retains a resonance today as society fights to hang on to traditional values in turbulent times. Yes, there are moments of reflection, yes, it’s touching and yes, there are moments of utter sadness, but overwhelmingly it is a joyful celebration of life and of hope.
The staging here is relatively simplistic however, it is highly effective in evoking the bustling life in the shtetl Anatevka at the turn of the century. There is a large ensemble and the company are at their finest when singing as one. The evocative score has some stand out tunes too: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “Sunrise, Sunset” and of course, “If I Were a Rich Man”, principle among them.
If any criticism is to be made with the production it is in some of the supporting roles, there were some pitch issues with a few of the cast, which were highlighted due to principal characters such as Proctor as Tevye and Suzanne Shanks in the role of daughter Hodel, being of such fine voice that it threw up any faults in those who had to sing alongside them. That said, it did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the evening.
A vivid re-staging of a classic show with a strong ensemble and a star leading man.