In days of yore when men were men and women were women, and men dressed as women to perform onstage, a night at the theatre was a ribald occasion. In order to show your appreciation (or lack thereof), you may have been tempted to stock up on soft tomatoes to lob at the baddie in lieu of any popcorn or choc tops. Your average working peasant went to see often lewd performances by actors who were considered to be of loose moral character. Shouting and singing was expected audience behaviour, and woe betided any performer who failed to entertain. It was a fun and inexpensive night out for commonfolk.
Wind the clock forward then to the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, who took the theatre experience up a notch. Their musical comedies made theatregoing almost respectable, and whilst still entertaining, the art of ‘stoning’ actors with rotten food fell out of favour and fortunately for some, it has never found favour among contemporary theatre goers since.
Really the play house in this age took off with the incarnation of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and his foray into musical theatre. ‘The musical’ then has been popular for many decades with audiences clamouring to buy tickets to the many and varied productions on offer. Melbourne is hosting three major musical theatre productions at this very moment and each one is pulling a significant audience.
Fiddler On The Roof has long been a popular production here. Not only is this because we have a substantial number of Jewish people living in Melbourne, but also because the plot is as relevant now as it was in Tsarist Russia. It is the story of both human relationships and of the struggle for power. It is also the story of displacement and how people who just wish to get on with their lives, are adversely affected by powers often hundreds of miles away. So we see that stories and storytelling hasn’t really changed all that much since theatre first became a form of entertainment.
After the iconic Topol retired from this production, there were big shoes to fill. Fortunately casting for the Melbourne season of ‘Fiddler’ got it right on the whole. The choice of Anthony Warlow as Tevye was inspired, with the rich timbre of his voice doing justice to the music. Sigrid Thornton as Golde was also a good choice, though at times her voice sounded somewhat reedy. Mark Mitchell was a standout as Lazar Wolfe.
When you consider that the actors had to learn lines and choreography, speak with a Jewish/Russian accent, look like peasants from that particular religious/cultural group and form at least some understanding of the cultural practices, and dare I say it traditions of the people they were playing, then you realise that to do a convincing job in the role is a brilliant achievement.
The cast earned a standing ovation on this opening night, so it was clear that the audience appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Go to see ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ and experience this poignant story for yourself.
Fiddler on the Roof Opening Night Red Carpet