Fiddler reviews

Surrey Opera takes to the Roof

Tony Flook in the Surrey Mirror, 4 March 2004

Surrey Opera’s production, at The Harlequin Theatre, Redhill, last week, drew the audience in right from the start as the sleepy community of Anatevka slowly came to life and the inhabitants gathered to explain their way of life in Tradition.

Almost everything was right about this opening; choral singing was perfectly co-ordinated and balanced between the vocal ranges (as it was throughout) and the ensemble showed the age scale from young to old you would expect to find in this Jewish village in pre-revolutionary Russia. Dress showed that the citizens were working folk ready to go about their daily chores.

At the heart of the story is the devout, if God-bothering Tevye, the dairyman. Tim Baldwin caught much of the spirit of the character, a man struggling to hold his family together and reconcile his beliefs in changing, troubled times.

Although he brought out the role’s inherent humour as well as its angst, he was at his best with his keynote If I Were a Rich Man and other songs.

He was well matched by Patricia Robinson, Golde, his long-suffering wife who had shared the ups and downs of their 25-years of marriage. Their relationship was ideally summarised in Do You Love Me?

The three oldest of their five daughters all developed their personalities: Rebecca Currier as Tzeitel, the first to break with the tradition of an arranged marriage; Lynn Boudreau, the bookish Hodel who follows her radical husband into exile; and Alys Dreux, Chava, ostracised for marrying outside the faith.

Trevor Connor established himself strongly as Perchik, the militant student, and Peter Calver gave a subtle interpretation as the nervous tailor who slowly finds his feet with the support of his wife. Randy Nichol showed presence in his appearances as the Russian outsider.

Jonathan Butcher and the orchestra were impeccable and always in perfect sympathy with the on-stage performers.

Technical difficulties occasionally detracted from the overall effect on the first night. The late arrival of the fiddler of the title indicated a back-stage problem and there were a few delays due to some scene changes that a few small compromises could have helped overcome. Lighting was often muted, compounding The Harlequin’s regular downstage dark spots.

Despite these minor reservations, director Jonathan Butcher and his entire team must have been pleased with the high-quality entertainment they gave an appreciative audience.