BWW Review: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Following the successful run of The Producers in the 350-seat Church Hill Theatre last year, it's very pleasing to see amateur company Edinburgh Music Theatre move back to the 1,350-seat King's Theatre for Fiddler on the Roof.
The original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, which opened in 1964, held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical until eventually surpassed by Grease, and won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical. Based on Aleichem's Tevye and his Daughters, it tells the story of the small, tradition-steeped town of Anatevka, Russia, where Jews and Russians live in delicate balance. The time-honoured traditions of Anatevka are both embraced and challenged by Tevye and his colourful community, as they witness his daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava, grow up and fall in love in a time of extraordinary change.
The Broadway success spawned a highly successful 1971 film adaptation, memorably starring Topol as the central character of Tevye, and it's difficult to resist comparing any actor's portrayal with his. In EMT's production, Alex Kantor succeeds as Tevye - his lower register is powerful and commanding, and he brings the necessary humanity and compassion to the role, winning the audience's sympathy rather than disdain over his reluctance to accept change, particularly in the scenes with his daughters.
"If I Were A Rich Man" and "Sunrise, Sunset" are performed convincingly, and "Tradition" and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" are particularly well presented. The harmonies in "Sabbath Prayer" can pose challenges for lesser companies, but here the evident rehearsal time and attention to detail visibly (and aurally) pay dividends.
All five of these musical numbers are included in the first half, which is almost double the length of the second half, but after the interval the story takes a more serious turn, and the EMT principals rise to the challenge. Libby Crabtree's Golde deserves particular mention here - she and Kantor's Tevye make a convincing long-married couple - as do daughters Sally Pugh (Tzeitel), Ashley Grandison (Hodel) and Katie McLean (Chava).
Director Ian Hammond Brown has created a memorable, compelling production and the 44-strong cast all work hard throughout. Musical director Paul Gudgin succeeds in making the 10-piece orchestra sound larger than it is, and - a few delayed microphone cues aside - Jerry Bock's music and Sheldon Harnick's lyrics are portrayed clearly and passionately.
Given the talent on stage, and looking at recent printed programmes from other amateur companies in the city, it is a shame that no biographies of the principals have been included in this year's programme, which otherwise contains informative articles - perhaps a suggestion for the future.
The decision has already been taken for EMT to return to the King's Theatre in May 2018 with Guys and Dolls, and, based on the success of Fiddler on the Roof, their confidence in rebooking the larger venue will be justified.
EMT's Fiddler on the Roof runs at Edinburgh's King's Theatre until 8 April.
Picture credit: Alan Potter (StagePics)