There’s something a bit special about this new national tour of Fiddler on the Roof: the role of Tevye, the poor milkman and protagonist of the story, is taken by Paul Michael Glaser, he of Starsky & Hutch fame and also part of the original film adaptation.
Last time Glaser played Perchik, the revolutionary school teacher who arrives in the village looking for work and leaves with more than he bargained for, namely a wife. This time around, with several more years tucked under his belt, he takes the part of the over-worked, underpaid, deeply religious and hen-pecked husband and father.
Do excuse the pun but, at 70, Glaser looks as fit as a fiddle which is a good job as his role demands his stage presence for a whopping 90 per cent of the time – and in a show which plays at more than two and a half hours, that’s a mammoth undertaking.
Some may be unconvinced by Glaser’s vocal talents and it’s true that he is not the strongest singer in the ensemble but, by gum, what he lacks vocally he makes up for in his utterly convincing portrayal of the father of five. It’s clear that Glaser is a proper actor with an inordinate amount of skill.
The other cast members are extraordinary in their own right, too. Particular mention goes to the splendid Karen Mann as Tevye’s wife, Golde, and to Emily O’Keefe, Liz Singleton and Claire Petzal, who play his eldest three daughters with sensitivity. Not only are the cast all-singing and all-dancing, they are also musicians. Each of them plays at least one instrument on stage throughout the production. In the beginning, this is a bizarre and jarring sight. The performers trot about the stage with clarinets and piccolos and ask the audience to suspend their disbelief, to suppose we are whisked away to the small village of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia as the Jews are being evicted from the country. But this question mark soon dissipates and the instruments become integral. It’s a splendidly entertaining, rich and moving production.
This is, in part, due to the fine direction and choreography by Strictly Come Dancing judge, Craig Revel Horwood. His minor celebrity status aside, Horwood’s keen eye has brought a fresh relevance to the piece while maintaining its old appeal. This is not an easy ask with the musical winning nine Tonys and the film adaptation notching three Academy Award wins. But with the timeless themes of love, tradition and persecution, the production zings in Horwood’s assured shuffle-ball changes.
Review by Lucia Cox
What: Fiddler on the Roof
Where: The Lowry, Salford Quays, Salford
When: until November 2, 2013 and touring until April 2014