I’m old enough to recall the sixties version of Fiddler on the Roof starring Topol and Miriam Karlin. It was a wonderful production reflecting how musicals have moved on from Broadway musical comedies to shows with more stirring stories. A musical about a life in an orthodox Jewish community in Tsarist Russia in 1900 would not at first sight be the stuff to make 3,242 consecutive Broadway performances. Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick wrote the music and lyrics and Hal Prince produced it. As I walked through the rain after seeing the John Minton exhibition at the Pallant and an early supper at the Jetty, formerly Murrays, both to be reviewed elsewhere, I did wonder if this revival would suffer by comparison. It did not.
Cast as Tevye the milkman with his 5 witty, strong-minded daughters was Omar Djalili. He looked like Topol with a gut that did not prevent him from dancing sinuously, strong voice but most of all he captured the warmth of the character and his conversations with God epitomised in “If I were a rich man” and lyric
” Would it spoil some vast eternal plan
If i was a wealthy man?”
The show conveys life well in the community, the ever-present fears of the pogrom and they would be ordered out and the shock when one daughter Hodel marries and elopes with a Christian. The dancing is rumbustious and there are memorable songs In Tradition and Sunrise, Sunset. There are no sets but that hardly matters as artifacts like the milk wagon are successfully used and the attention to orthodox Jewish costume rigorous. Tracey Oberman was convincing as the wife but perhaps there was too much lip service to diversity by having one Jewish daughter of mixed race?
All in all a wonderful night at the theatre and proof that under new artistic direction Chichester Festival Theatre can still reproduce vintage musicals brilliantly.