Theatre: Fiddler on the Roof

Friday evening I found myself in a packed and warm theatre to watch Fiddler on the Roof. I figured now was as good as any time to catch a production of this classic musical. The last thing I saw at the Savoy was Porgy and Bess and looking at the set before it began, I noticed it was all rough wooden planks. I thought I was still on Catfish Row. I had no idea a shtetl looked so similar to a South Carolina slum.

As the show began, the set was so big, hideous and imposing, that it kept distracting me from the rest of the show... Watching it spin, things pop up, things got added to it. Only when the pogrom began towards the end of the first act (with real fire), did my spirits lift... Perhaps they would burn the silly thing to the ground? Darn, those cossacks just set a picture and a wooden box alight. Oh and they threw a pillow about. Hmm... Some pogrom...

Sets aside, Fiddler is a great musical with its core story of a family and a community. The production managed to keep life in the old numbers such as "Tradition", "Matchmaker" and "If I were a Rich Man" and keep attention while the first act clocks up nearly two hours. The second half is where the songs are not as memorable, but to be fair, it must have been hard for Jerry Bock to write a catchy tune about Siberia or oppression.

I wasn't so rapt with Henry Goodman as Tevye as the rest of the audience (who gave him a standing ovation for mugging his way through the show), but I did enjoy Sue Kelvin as Goldie. Goodman's reactions to when she yelled surely wasn't acting. The woman sure can bellow, I wouldn't want to be in the path of that...

The production also must set a record for me for the number of fake beards I have seen on stage at any one time. Just as well I don't suffer from pognophobia. Oh and beware of the flying cast member... I guess it is during the dream sequence but still the wires and harness were in clear view...

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