Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Book by Joseph Stein
Directed by Trevor Nunn
Playhouse Theatre
21 March - booking to 28 September 2019
Review by Clive Burton


It’s fair to say that Fiddler on the Roof is a perennially popular musical and a recurring hit on an international scale.


Sir Trevor Nunn’s immersive current production sold out at the Menier Chocolate last year before transferring to London’s West End where it is now installed at The Playhouse Theatre.


It centres around the family life of Tevye, a milkman, his wife, Golde and their five young daughters, all of whom live in the village of Anatevka at the turn of the last century.


The curious title relates to the precarious positioning of a solo violinist whose presence reminds everyone of their links to a common past, without which their lives would be as shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof (hence the show’s title).


The all-company opening number, ‘Tradition’, re-iterates the importance of a rigid structure in binding society together by delineating the roles of everyone within a Jewish culture that sets - and abides by - its own limits; the Papas run a society in tandem with their wives (the Momas): sons are prized over daughters and brought up in the expectation of marrying well; daughters are expected to be subservient to husbands chosen by the Papas in cahoots with a professional Matchmaker who is remunerated for her role accordingly.


By the end of the show, however, when villagers are forcibly uprooted by order of the Czar, everything has begun to change, leaving Tevye to live with consequences that, as a devout Jew, he finds to be unsettling in every sense and that often test his devoted (and intimate) relationship with his God.


As Tevye, Andy Nyman makes a believable pater familias


Bearing the cares of the world lightly (albeit begrudgingly) on his shoulders, he experiences growing discomfort fitting in with an increasingly challenging world where men may now actually meet their partners before their wedding day. 


Looking back on their past quarter century together, he and the estimable Judy Kuhn (as Golde) verbalise the innocence of their youthful affection for each other to express a lifetime of words unspoken in ‘Do You Love Me? 


Touching; yes. But not the tear-jerker it should be.


Oh, how he longs for the solace which he imagines wealth could bring: a wife looking like a rich man's wife ‘with a proper double-chin’: and the fanciful conceit of a house with three staircases: ‘one long staircase just going up, And one even longer coming down, And one more leading nowhere, just for show…’


As his daughters bring his absolute authority over them into question, their suitors take into their own hands whom they should marry - effectively making the services of the Matchmaker redundant and setting a dangerous precedent for the future in Tevye' s eyes. 


Molly Osbourne, Harriet Bunton and Nicola Brown acquit themselves admirably as Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava, three spunky sisters whose bid for romantic independence is all part and parcel of the monumental changes Tevye faces, and their actions leave the door open for wider reforms within a historically closed society. 


Fiddler boasts a fine score by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick that includes easy-on-the ear hits such as 'If I were a Rich Man,' the contemplative 'Sunrise, Sunset’ and the wistfully-spirited 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker', all performed with kletzmer flourishes by an eight-piece band under Paul Bogaev.


Thrillingly-danced original set pieces for ‘To Life’ and ‘The Wedding/Bottle Dance’ are dazzlingly choreographed by Jerome Robbins whose original work is fizzingly re-created by Matt Coles, but these days (when some plays and musicals are shorter in total than Fiddler’s languorous 100-minute first act) Joseph Stein’s leisurely book can sometimes seem over-long. 


Robert Jones’ sweeping set boasts all the accoutrements of a small, self-contained community and recreates the sights and sounds of the shtetl in vivid detail, with exemplary sound and first-rate sightlines adding to the pleasures of this perennially popular show.

Playhouse Theatre
Northumberland Ave,
Box Office: 0844 871 7631

Maria Friedman will be taking the role of Golde and 

Anita Dobson will play Yente from 18 June 2019

They join 

Andy Nyman (Tevye), 

Nicola Brown (Chava), 

Harriet Bunton (Hodel), 

Dermot Canavan (Lazar Wolf), 

Stewart Clarke (Perchik), 

Joshua Gannon (Motel), 

Matthew Hawksley (Fyedka), and 

Molly Osborne (Tzeitel), as well as 

Miles Barrow, 

Sofia Bennett, 

Philip Bertioli, 

Lottie Casserley,

Elena Cervesi, 

Lia Cohen, 

Talia Etherington, 

Shoshana Ezequiel, 

Isabella Foat, 

Fenton Gray, 

James Hameed,  

Adam Linstead, 

Adam Margilewski, 

Robert Maskell, 

Benny Maslov, 

Robyn McIntyre,

Gaynor Miles, 

Ellie Mullane, 

Tania Newton, 

Craig Pinder, 

Valentina Theodoulou and 

Ed Wade