Therry Dramatic Society. Arts Theatre. 8 Jun 2017
It might seem an odd place to stage a musical – the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia in 1905 – but Fiddler on the Roof formed part of a style of ‘60s musical theatre that was pushing established boundaries and turning its back on entertaining escapism in favour of more serious depictions of real life struggles.
Tevye the milkman – Fiddler’s central character – is father to five daughters, living an impoverished life in the Russian village of Anatevka, under the ever impending threat of pogroms at the behest of Nicholas II, the tsar to Russia. Tevye is a devout Jew, and an honest man, but his daughters soon test his ideologies, loyalties, and eventually even his faith.
Fiddler is a heavily sanitised version of the events of 1905, which ultimately culminated in the Russian Revolution. University educated, Perchik hints towards this, but the future is left open ended and hanging at the fall of the final curtain. Similarly, Fiddler incorporates what must be one of the tamest pogroms ever enacted; one which the cast of this production manage to remedy with only a few moments of clearing and righting furniture. Despite this, the tale is still endearing, and oddly heart-warming.
Therry’s production rests solidly on the outstanding performance of David Gauci in the central role. Gauci is ably surrounded by a lovely cast who create a wonderful sense of community on the Arts Theatre stage. Gauci’s Tevye remains appropriately light in the context of the material. He wonderfully balances the irony, humour, compassion, and dedication of the religious man with the family man, working his way firmly into our hearts. The duet, Do You Love Me?, between Tevye and his wife Golde (Anne Doherty), is both a highlight and a grounding moment of solidarity.
The whole production has a warm, honest feel to it. Jason Groves’ lighting seems to capture the unassuming nature of the village’s inhabitants whilst casting them in a warm glow of inner prosperity. Peter Johns’ musical direction enhances the strengths in the cast whilst not stretching them beyond the capacity of the ensemble, delivering real balance amongst the players. It is Kerry Hauber’s choreography that transports us, however, and what a delightful sight it is; with some impressively talented male dancers amongst the amateur ensemble.
The show is long, and does take its time to build - both in character and narrative. But it is a journey we are happy to be on with the generous cast and gentle production values. Norm Caddick’s direction is consistent and sweet, and the result is simply satisfying.
A smile rendering production, with a few belly laughs along the way – and tickets are selling fast.
When: 8 to 17 Jun
Where: Arts Theatre