Review: WEOS present Fiddler On The Roof at the Tyne Theatre

Review: WEOS present Fiddler On The Roof at the Tyne Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof – Tyne Theatre and Opera House

12th April 2023

From the moment you walk into the auditorium, you are immersed into the feeling of the show with some authentic music appropriate to the production, provided thoughtfully by the sound technicians from Tyne Audio. This sets the scene for a wonderful performance. 

Fiddler on the Roof tells the tale of Tevye (Jonathan Worthy), a humble milkman and his large family, who challenge his traditions, beliefs, and his religion in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century. Times were not great for the Jewish families in the villages in what is now the Ukraine echoing the present day and this is very sensitively addressed with this polished and carefully thought-out production from director Martyn Knight. 

The opening number is very well imagined introducing the papas, sons, daughters and mamas as they portray their duties and positions in the small village of Anatevka. It is all about tradition, the close bond of the family, and maintaining the status quo. 

Tevye has his own problems to deal with, mainly concerning his lame horse, before his daughters start falling in love, left, right and centre with some very untraditional types much to the consternation of his wife, the villagers, the Rabbi and Tevye himself. He negotiates these challenges with careful though and judgement. 

Tzeitel (Bekki Shenfine), his eldest daughter, is the first to go against her papa when she falls in love with the tailor, Motel (Liam Gilbert) against the wishes of her father who has betrothed her to Lazar Wolf, The Butcher (Gary McGrogan.)

The story continues with Tevye’s headstrong daughters each choosing their own husbands causing him many headaches, challenges and working out how his is going to explain himself to his wife of twenty-five years, Golde (Carol Emerson.)

Worthy plays a fantastic part, emulating but not copying the recently late Topol as the patriarch of the family. His faith is evident, but the love of his daughters and his wife shines through with some great acting and vocal skill on his part. His duet with his wife, Golde, in the second half is absolutely beautiful. The chemistry between Motel and Tzeitel is obvious to see, not least because the actors playing them are also getting married in July in a beautiful reflection of their characters in the show and we all wish them a very happy life together. 

The cast would not be complete without Yente, played with great presence by Christine Lewin, who is deliciously devious and downright demanding in her role as the matchmaker. 

This production is very slick, even with a few minor hiccups on opening night, and shines a bright spotlight on the value of amateur theatre. I spoke to a few of the cast before the show. Gary, who plays Lazar Wolf, joins WEOS for the first time and spoke about the family bond that is engendered within the cast and company of WEOS; indeed his daughter, Sophie, takes the part of Chava whose heart is taken by Russian soldier, Fyedka (Zach Hardy) much to the consternation of her father. 

Avram (Peter Anderson), the local gossip, shares the stage with his real life son, Joe, who plays the Rabbi’s son and has caught the eye of Hodel (Hannah Brown.) In fact, no fewer than 20 members of this large cast of 54 are related in one way or another which just emphasises the message of the importance of family in Fiddler on the Roof and indeed the community spirit of local theatre. 

The sound and lighting of this production is superb, the latter being provided by Paul Oliver of POSS Productions and the former by long time supporters of The Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Tyne Audio, this evening operated by Jonathan Mellor and Amy Mellor. The set was provided by Scenic Projects LTD and all provided a fantastic background to the action. 

The costumes, were, by and large, lovely but they were not without some jarring inaccuracies. There is no way a policeman in early 20th century Russia would be wearing an obviously British policeman’s uniform complete with numbers and Jewish Motel would never get married in a top hat.

For me, Fiddler on the Roof is made by the wonderful music. This was led by Musical Director Andrew Soulsby with a truly fantastic orchestra which I could not fault.

Given what is going on in the Ukraine at the moment, this story of families being displaced, evicted and persecuted takes on a whole new poignancy. Even within a tale set at the turn of the century before last, WEOS brought their audience into the present time with the skilful way Martyn Knight and the entire cast of Fiddler on the Roof  brought the show to a close. I admire the deft touch of a no frills finale and while the cast really did deserve a standing ovation, it was very appropriate that one was not sought. Bravo to the cast, crew, musicians and, indeed, the audience for bringing the show to a subtle and deferential conclusion. I salute you all. 

Fiddler on the Roof continues at The Tyne Theatre and Opera House until Saturday 15th April with matinees on Thursday 13th(relaxed performance) and Saturday

– Stephen Stokoe

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