Fiddler On The Roof – July 2011

9/10

By: Joseph Stein,  Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock

Directed by: Kenn Oldfield

Musical direction by: Martin Waddington

Company: Guildford School of Acting Graduate Company

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 15th July 2011

This was a three-hanky production, and very enjoyable with it. I started sniffling during Tevye’s first monologue, and then I was wiping my eyes loads of times. The graduates from the Guildford School of Acting were superb, and I do hope they go on to have good careers; they certainly have a lot of talent.

The set was the regular one, with lots of wooden slatted buildings, a milk cart and the marvellous sewing machine. The choreography also seemed traditional, appropriately enough. The cast involved us in the story right from the beginning, and although it was obvious that a number of them were much younger than the parts they played, I wasn’t put off at all by the false beards. Of course the music is fantastic, which helps, and the small band also did an excellent job, which made the evening just about perfect.

There was plenty of humour, although I do find myself wondering with this musical whether I should really be laughing at some of the jokes, especially between Tevye and the Constable, but the spirit of the piece and the resilience of the characters are just too infectious. Despite their suffering, I always feel uplifted at the end of Fiddler. Long may it be performed.

People to single out – Jacob Baumila as Tevye did a very good job. I was just a little distracted at first because he looked so much like someone I know, but his singing was excellent, and he delivered the lines very well. Natalie Lipin played Golde, his wife, and she was very good, though it took me a little while to spot that she was the mother as she looked a bit too young to begin with. The daughters, Tzeitel (Alia Grace), Hodel (Alys Metcalf) and Chava (Charlotte Mason-Apps) were all good. Alia Grace had more acting to do, and was very good at that, Alys Metcalf was a very good singer as well as actor, while Charlotte Mason-Apps danced as well as sang and acted – she should go far. Of the rest, I particularly liked Ben Riddle as the rabbi, ever ready to say absolutely nothing, Joe McCourt as the student, Pieter de Groot as the young Russian soldier who falls in love with Chava, and Louise Olley as the matchmaker. They were a great ensemble, and it was a very strong production.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

She Loves Me – June 2011

6/10

Book by Joe Masteroff, Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

Directed by: Stephen Mear

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Thursday 16th June 2011

This was an excellent production of an above average musical. As we’re not great fans of musicals, I haven’t rated it that highly, but I don’t want to imply any lack of professionalism or talent on the part of the performers – they were all top-notch, and managed some amazing dance routines on a very cramped stage. The singing was excellent too, and other audience members were clearly enjoying themselves enormously; at the post show, several had seen the show at least once before.

The story is the familiar one of two people who think they don’t like each other gradually realising they’re in love and getting together. It’s done via letter-writing through a dating service, so although they work together every day, they don’t know who they’re writing to until an arranged meeting which leaves one of them still in the dark. Around all this is wrapped the story of a shop which sells all sorts of potions and creams to beautify women, and the characters who staff this shop. There’s some good songs, including one which uses Ravel’s Bolero as part of the tune, and a fair bit of comedy, although I found I didn’t laugh as much as the person behind me, who clearly loved the show.

Set: circular tiled pattern on floor, echoed by circular curved wheel structure above with globe lamps. The backdrop of a street perspective is screened by another curve, this time windows with a central door. The windows also have elaborate curved patterns on them, with bird images and coloured bottles on shelves creating a stained glass effect. The words above the shop door were “Maraczek, Parfumier”. The shop front was on a revolve, and there was another counter-revolve outside that, so the location could be changed pretty quickly, but from the post-show I gathered the cast needed a lot of practice to be able to walk on them. Most of the action takes place inside the shop, but we also visit a hospital room and Amalia Balash’s flat. The band was split between left and right balconies. The setting is an American version of a European city in the 1930s. The accents used were mostly American, as this fitted better with the dialogue, although the names were middle European and the prices shown were good old LSD! Such is the magic of theatre that we didn’t particularly mind.

I particularly liked Annette McLaughlin as Ilona Ritter, the good-time girl shop assistant who finds one man who’s disgracefully unfaithful and another who’s more the marrying kind, and Steve Elias as Ladislav Sipos, the only married shop assistant who has some of the best lines. His comment about the anonymous letter – next time, I’ll name names! – was really funny. But there were many good performances, though sadly, no more chances to see them as no transfer has been arranged. Shame. This was a good start to the season at the Minerva though, so if the rest are up to this standard we’re in for an excellent summer.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Fiddler On The Roof – October 2007

10/10

Book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

Directed by: Lindsay Posner

Venue: Savoy Theatre

Date: Saturday 27th October 2007

This was only ever going to be 10/10, from long before it started. I was sobbing before the opening music, as Steve reminded me of the signature image of the fiddler on the roof (trust him not to have seen the film, not know who was in it apart from Topol, but to remember the name of the fiddler!) and that set me off. Sorry about this, it’s been an emotional afternoon, and I’m still recovering.

This was absolutely wonderful. I’m so glad we took the opportunity to get up to London and check out the ticket availability (half-price ticket booth, of course). Henry Goodman as Tevye was superb. It’s a part he was born to play, and from what we know of him, he’ll have thrown himself into it body and soul. It shows. He was a huge presence on stage, not drowning out the others, but always holding it together, keeping us involved, and giving us most of the laughs. Even the smallest change of expression came across back in row P. And his singing voice was a revelation. His range was wider than I expected, sort of a bass-baritone, and it was wonderfully rich and expressive. Of course, we bought the cast recording, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to appreciate it again.

All of the cast were good, of course, and the energy they put into this performance was amazing. I only wish they could have a space like the Olivier to show off their talents even more, as occasionally the Savoy stage looked a little cramped. I know it’s meant to be a small village, but this is make-believe, after all. The set was all tattered wooden slats and beams. The revolve came in handy to change the setting quickly, but there was still a lot of table and chair shifting to do. Fortunately, there was  always some music to keep us engrossed, so the momentum was never lost.

What else can I say? There were lots of laughs, some great dancing, the fiddler was very good (dancing-wise), the orchestra were fine, the dream sequence vivid and highly amusing, and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, with occasional intervals. I wasn’t the only one enjoying it, either, as we gave Tevye a standing ovation at the end, and would have carried on applauding if there hadn’t been one of those charity appeals to do. Henry Goodman managed it very well, including an impromptu comment about accidents after a loud thump came from off-stage, and we all went away happy, and singing to ourselves. Happy day.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me