Set in Tsarist Russia in 1905, this perennially popular musical is based on a collection of folk tales, “Tevye and his Daughters” written in Yiddish by Sholem Aleichem. Adapted as a stage play in the mid 1950s, writer Joseph Stein saw its potential as a musical.
The Broadway premiere opened in 1964 running for 3,000 performances and received nine Tony Awards including Best Musical. The film version starring Chaim Topol was presented with three Academy Awards.
Alongside Topol in the cast list was a young actor, Paul Michael Glaser as Perchik, the student. Glaser returns to Fiddler on the Roof in this spectacular touring production, now of an age to take the lead role, the milkman Reb Tevye.
A hard-working, devout Jewish man, he lives with his wife Golde and five daughters in the rural village of Anatevka in pre-revolutionary Russia.
Even if you have never seen the stage musical or the film, you are sure to know some of the romantic ballads which seamlessly roll the storyline along like an operatic score.
The large cast of actors are also singers, some of whom are the on stage orchestra playing violin, guitar, keyboards, wind and brass, double bass and percussion.
With the tweed-suited, Peter Pan-like Fiddler perched high up at a rooftop attic window, the Prologue kicks off with a rousing chorus of Tradition, the song title referring to Tevye’s strong moral beliefs.
The set is magnificently designed, a virtual street of tall wooden buildings representing the houses, shops, synagogue and tavern. The Tevye family home stands centre stage, opening up like a giant dolls house complete with dining room, stairs and bedrooms.
Tevye is a God-fearing poor peasant of a man, who can’t afford to replace his horse and drags his milk cart around the village.
His trust in Jewish custom is steadfast when the local matchmaker arranges the marriage between his older daughter Tzeitel to Lazar, the butcher. Tevye is delighted to give her hand in marriage – his decision regardless of her feelings.
But Tzeitel is horrified at the idea of marrying such an old man, and reveals her love for the timid yet charming Motel, the tailor.
Glaser captures the downtrodden character, this kindly Everyman, with genuine passion and painful anguish at having to depart from tradition in choosing a spouse for his daughters.
Pleading and praying for courage, he raises his eyes to the heavens for guidance feeling he has lost control of his faith - and of his family. A political edict from the Tsar will soon shake his spiritual belief in mankind and the lives of the community even more.
Scene by scene the story is related through powerful lyrics of each song, (If I were a Rich Man, To Life and Sunrise, Sunset), performed by the fabulous ensemble with delightful humour and heartfelt emotion.
With Craig Revel Horwood (Strictly Come Dancing) in charge, dance sequences are slickly choreographed throughout – not least a troupe of men balancing beer bottles in a high kicking routine, perfected with acrobatic skill.
This joyous, moving and magical revival celebrates fifty years of Fiddler on the Roof and proves once again why this show is such an extraordinary successful stage musical.
1 - 5 October, 2013
Highly recommended for a pre-theatre meal is Spoon,
directly opposite the EFT. 6a Nicolson Street. t. 0131 623 1752.