BWW Review: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF - Warlow Keeps 'Tradition' Alive!
After much anticipation, applause fills the Princess Theatre as the stage is lit to reveal the wonderful Anthony Warlow as Tevye on opening night in the new Australian production of Fiddler On The Roof!
Who would have thought that more than 51 years on, a musical following the life and struggles of a Jewish family in the small Russian town of Anatevka in 1905 would still have relevance and appeal to audiences of today? This Tony Award wining show with music by Jerry Brock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein, has seen great success Worldwide and Director Roger Hodgman, together with Dana Jolly's re-staging of Jerome Robbins original choreography and Kellie Dickerson as Musical Director, the Australian production is no exception.
Warlow shines as Tevye! A role made famous by the remarkable Topol (a hard act to follow), he manages, seemingly effortlessly and with great conviction, to imbue the role with qualities and nuances of heart-felt truth, warmth, impeccable comic timing and subtleties of his own. His vocal prowess is second to none and shines throughout with his accent also well executed. He is supported by the stunning, Sigrid Thorton, who compliments him beautifully with her portrayal of his headstrong, determined and at times vulnerable wife, Golde. Although lacking strength vocally, her talents as an actress are outstanding.
The five daughters are well cast, in particular the three eldest; Teagan Wouters as Tzeitel, Monica Swayne as Hodel and Jessica Vickers as Chava. Their rendition of Match Maker, Match Maker is lovely, all of them vocally strong and vary suitably in disposition. They each capture the essence of youth and build their characters admirably as their stories progress. Swayne's soprano tone is beautifully pitched in her rendition of Far From The home I Love in Act Two.
Clearly, great effort and focus had been placed on the re-staging of the musical numbers - not an easy task! Choreographer, Dana Jolly's work is tremendous, re-producing slick, energized movement that heightened the passion and emotion of the book and assisted greatly in bringing the score to life. Each of the performers embody a raw quality, a real gusto and sheer determination evident in such numbers as To Life, where the men proudly take centre stage with traditional Russian movements and the very focused and skill required to successfully complete the 'Bottle Dance' without a hitch.
Other standout performances include Nicki Wendt as Yente, the town gossip, showcasing her wonderful comedic talent. Blake Bowden played Perchik, love interest of Hodel (Swayne), with a true sense of self-assurance in procuring a wife much to Tevye's dismay. Lazer Wolfe, an unattractive suitor with visions of marrying eldest daughter Tzeitel (Wouters), spiritedly conveyed by Mark Mitchell who was impressive both in acting and vocals. LIOR does a commendable job as Motel although his rendition of Miracle of Miracles requires more strength and elation. Jensen Overend's work as Fyedka does not go unnoticed, with his strong voice and touching, heartfelt performance as he too finds love with Chava (Vickers).
Truthfully, Act One is lengthy! However Director Roger Hodgman, along with the wonderful work of Musical Director Kellie Dickerson, ensure that the pace of the show is maintained throughout, driving the narrative effectively which is also helped by the fact that we are in safe hands with Warlow at the helm. Although there are some issues and discrepancies amongst the cast relating to the varied accents employed, pulling unwanted focus at times, overall the cast is strong and committed to their roles. Another element keeping things running swiftly is undoubtedly the beautifully realized and efficient set, designed by Richard Roberts allowing for smooth and seamless transitions.
A heart-warming story of hope, courage, love and true family values, this production has been recreated for the Australian stage with great integrity, showcasing a wonderful cast with a great deal of Chutzpah! Be sure not to miss Fiddler On The Roof and help keep "tradition" alive!
Photo Credit: Jeff Busby