Jul 21

Review: Fabulous Fiddler

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Fiddler on the Roof (until 2 September)
Chichester Festival Theatre
Box Office: 01243 781312 www.cft.org.uk

Photo credit: Johan Persson

Heart, humour and world-class performances are just some of the elements that make Daniel Evans’s big summer musical an absolute belter. Add to that terrific musicians, Alistair David’s thrilling choreography and Lez Brotherston’s cleverly conceived set, which makes the very best use of Chichester’s unique stage, and you have a show that has all the hallmarks of a West End transfer.

The story of Tevye, a poor dairyman with five daughters, it is 1905 and in Russia an uneasy sense of impending change is in the air. But on a poor shtetl Tevye is more immediately concerned with finding husbands for the three eldest of his girls. Alas, despite his best efforts to keep with tradition, it seems that they are determined to follow their hearts rather than their heads, or indeed the advice of Matchmaker Yente (gloriously played by Liza Sadovy).

Omid Djalili is superb as Tevye. Radiating warmth sufficient to melt a Moscow frost in January, he convinces absolutely as the ordinary family man who is not without his shortcomings. In his regular exchanges with God (Dajalili’s stand-up career is much in evidence here), and later as he sings the touching Do You Love Me? to his wife, he reveals a touching vulnerability.

Tracy-Ann Oberman as his wife Golde is equally impressive. A feisty lioness who knows her old man better than he knows himself, it is an inspired pairing.

The singing overall is outstanding. From sweet and soaring to joyous and rousing, Tradition, the opening number, is nothing short of an emotional musical wallop to the gut.

A stupendous ensemble effort, this is a revival that feels both fresh and relevant. Delivering the theatrical triple of laughter (the dream scene is as clever as it is riotous), tears, and food for thought, it is the latter of the whole shebang that is the production’s ultimate strength.

A sharp reminder of how political and social unrest continues to throw lives into disarray, the final moments are heartbreakingly poignant.