2005 was the last time a huge professional production of Fiddler on the Roof played to Sydney audiences.
While significant time has passed since the musical was written, adapted into a film and reached millions across the world through performances, Fiddler on the Roof is one show that transcends time and is still a joy to watch on any stage. And in this big budget new production with Australia’s musical man Anthony Warlow, the experiences of Jewish people in early 1900s Imperial Russia continues to resonate with contemporary audiences and provide deep insights into the intersection between cultural traditions and modern ideas at the time.
The story of Tevye and his family, who struggle with displacement and external pressures of the world, is not too unlike what many contemporary societies are going through. Anthony Warlow’s Tevye is played humbly, with charm and with the right amount of power that the audience both sympathises and despises him. Naturally, his vocal range and beautiful baritone precedes him, but it is his complete grasping, and natural embodiment, of the character that makes him a marvel to watch. His magnum opus in the show has to be ‘If I Were A Rich Man’, a fun and sincere song that perfectly shows off his acting and singing chops.
All other supporting characters are strong and contribute star quality to the show. Monica Swayne as Hodel is a standout, with the performance of ‘Far From The Home I Love’ a tender moment in the story. Lior’s Motel, the tailor’s son, is likeable and delightful on stage. Blake Bowden’s Perchick is also solid in his role, and a performer to watch out for. Sigrid Thornton is pleasant as Golde, but struggles with the higher notes and register. Mark Mitchell is also a fun addition as the town’s butcher Lazer.
Directed by Roger Hodgman, the story is performed in a timber box, with moving spaces and sets created in an artful way. Despite the musical being over fifty years old, Hodgman doesn’t try to change the story too much, but emphasises different aspects of its all-encompassing storyline. Whilst it doesn’t push the underlying story of Tevye, his community and the fiddler becoming refugees, the show takes a more nuanced approach and focuses more on the events prior.
You may leave the theatre with songs such as ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’, ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ and ‘Tradition’ ringing through your head, or with a heavy heart because of the powerful, ending, but there’s a sense of joy that one has witnessed musical theatre at its finest. And for stage productions in Sydney, with varying qualities and successes, that’s all any theatregoer could want.