Reviewed by Katy Hart
Oxford Operatic Society, known as being one of Oxford’s best non-professional companies certainly lived up to this reputation last evening (15 January 2018) at the opening night of Fiddler on the Roof at the Oxford Playhouse.
The musical, based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, tells of Jewish life in the village of Anatevka, Russia at the turn of the 20th century. It is told through the beautiful storytelling of Tevye, a poor milkman, his wife Golde, and their five daughters. At a time or rising anti-Semitism, the family cling to their Jewish traditions and culture. Tevye, played by Steve Mellin, beautifully portrays a man caught between his customs and his conscience as he struggles to understand these changing times and questions a seemingly silent God.
His daughters too are caught between their traditions and the changing times as the three older daughters choose to go against the culture of an arranged marriage, but marry for love.
The end of the first act is brought to a spectacular close with a wedding scene between Tzeitel, the eldest daughter and Motel, a poor hardworking tailor. Tzietel had been promised to the wealthy village butcher, however despite the breakaway from their culture, the wedding is a beautiful traditional Jewish wedding, under the wedding canopy.
The second act brings rising tensions and rumours of the Russians expelling Jews from their villages. As the village gather together the constable arrives to tell them they have three days to pack up and leave the town. The moving final scene is the family saying their farewells as they split and go their separate ways, leaving behind all they’ve known and loved, and moving on to the unknown. This has a wider resonance with what is happening in the wider world today and one cannot help but question where do we stand, here and now as our daily news feeds are filled with similar stories.
The traditions and customs of this Jewish family are ‘as precarious as the perch of a fiddler on a roof’ and throughout the performance as Tevye reflects upon life and questions his silent God, the fiddler can be seen precariously, and poignantly, fiddling as if upon the roof.
Steve Melling as Tevye was outstanding – his sensitivity and humour make Tevye a really loveable character as he grapples to come to terms with external and internal conflicts. His performance of ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ was beautifully delivered. Golde, his sharp-tongued wife, was equally as captivating, and their duet “Do You Love Me?” was a highlight of the evening.
Tzeitel (Saffi Needham) and Hodel (Laura Ni Mhathuna) both gave beautiful performances as daughters, and Yente (Marilyn Moore), the village matchmaker was brilliant. Who could forget the men dancing with bottles balanced upon their heads? – well, almost balanced! Another highlight of the evening.
I’d thoroughly recommend going to see Fiddler on the Roof this week. The Oxford Operatic Society certainly deliver in bringing this beautiful, poignant musical to the stage. The musicians, choreography and staging added to what was a fantastic performance by all involved.
The performance lasts approx. two hours forty-five minutes with a short interval.
Tickets cost from £10 to £22 (booking fees may apply).
Fiddler on the Roof is at the Oxford Playhouse from 15-20 January 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.oxfordplayhouse.com or call the box office on 01865 305305.
Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LW | 01865 305305