Fiddler on the Roof is a charismatic and emotional piece of theatre and its story still rings true today, where religion is the cause of so many issues in modern news.
Witham Operatic Society gave us a great insight into the life of a Jewish community in Russian circa 1905.
John Davies, led the cast in the part of Tevye (made famous by Topol in the film). He took on the part with aplomb, John has a lovely timbre to his voice which added a lovely depth to the character. He led us through the show with such ease and his characterisation that told us he was totally comfortable in this role and showed us the mix of emotions as his daughters break from Tradition to find their own love away from the Matchmaker.
Kath Adkins as Tevye’s wife, Golde, was another consummate performer in tonight’s production. The two bounced off each other really well and we saw this at its best in their number together ‘Do You Love Me’
Tevye’s three eldest daughters were played in order by Emily Smith as Tzeitel, Corrina Wilson as Hodel and Hattie Gribben as Chava.
Tzeitel is a difficult part to play – it’s an emotional acting role and Emily embraced this role and made it her own. The accent sometimes wandered but it didn’t deteriorate from her performance. In fact, Emily was at her best when partnered with Ed Groombridge as Motel the Tailor. Ed was just perfect as Motel and I probably think this was the best straight acting role in a musical I have seen him do.
Corrina as Hodel was probably the truest historically of the girls and has an amazing voice whatever part she is faced with. Her rendition of ‘Far from the Home I Love’ was one of the highlights of the show but once again she was at her best when partnered with Gareth Gwyn-Jones as Perchick. They have a good chemistry on stage and both sang so well together. They are a great onstage partnership.
The youngest of the three elder daughters was Chava played by Hattie Gribbon. Hattie is a strong performer and was lovely when working with Corrina and Emily particularly in ‘Matchmaker’ but I wished she had let go a little more after ‘Chavaleh’ when begging her father to accept her. I really feel Hattie had a lot more to give and I personally would have loved to have seen this. Paired with Fraser Mclauchlin as Fyedka, the Russian, they made a lovely young couple. Fraser is growing with every performance he does and shows great promise of a strong future in musical theatre.
The company singing throughout was possibly the best I have heard in Witham for a while – the harmonies were spot on and I enjoyed these numbers immensely. The lighting in a few places was a little dark which made it difficult to see some scenes but the diction, in general, was really good ensuring we heard what was going on. I also particularly liked the Cossack dancing and bottle dance with Fraser, Ben and Ryan.
Other strong principal performances were Lydia Clough as Matchmaker -Yente, Anne Wilson as Fruma Sarah and Liz Watson as Grandma Tzeitel. Stewart Adkins as Lazar Wolfe has, as always, great stage presence and gave a strong and reliable performance. However, I particularly liked Ryan Wuyts as Mendel – I really think this is a young man to watch for the future. He stood out against some very experienced performers and I look forward to seeing him in future shows.
The choreography by Julie Slater was excellent and well thought out throughout, although, in some places, some dances looked a little untidy and under-rehearsed but I really liked the bottle dance by the three young men which was perfectly executed tonight.
I missed some of the more traditional elements of the show but this was (as it should be) the Directors vision and Dave King led this cast to a strong production which the audience tonight definitely enjoyed.
I hope the audiences for the rest of the week enjoy it as much and if you haven’t got tickets then you should get some for a great night’s entertainment.
Director David King
Musical Director James Tovey
Choreographer Julie Slater
Performed at Witham Public Hall 23rd April 2018
Attending on opening night it was good to see that WAOS were playing to a packed hall with an excellent production of this evergreen favourite show. “Fiddler” which is as relevant now in 2018 as it was around 1905 at the time of a very disturbing and violent time for many people with Pogroms (killing of a minority race) happening in Russia.
We were treated to a super Tevye in John Davies playing this major character in a kindly manner as husband and father with the most smooth dark velvet singing voice in all his songs. John directed his requests to God including the audience in his daily prayers. We had some very tender moments together with Kath Adkins as his wife Golde including the very poignant ”Do you Love Me” which was presented and sung well. In Tevye’s main song “If I Were a Rich Man” the ending chant was rather shorter than I have heard and perhaps would have added even more to this great number if extended?
Kath, with her Daughters Emily Smith as Tzeitel, Corrina Wilson as Hodel, Hatty Gribben as Chava and the two younger girls Louisa Turnbull as Shprintze and Poppy Fisher as Bielke gave a firm but fair style to her character and her daughters’ concerns both high and low, and always to Tevye her husband and man of the house.
Corrina as Hodel has such a lovely tone to her voice and “Far from the Home I Love” was beautifully sung in a lovely scene with Tevye when she was leaving her home to be with her husband Perchik in Siberia.
Emily Smith as Tzeitel was gentle and also Hatty as Chava completed the three older daughters. All worked well together, although perhaps a little more emotion from both of them when pleading with their father for his consent to their marriages would have added more to the scenes, but all did very well.
Edward Groombridge as Motel the Tailor I thought did so well in this character, with a good singing voice and interpretation all round. Gareth Gwyn-Jones as the revolutionary Perchik got his character spot on and played this part with conviction.
The character of Lasar Wolf was played by Stewart Adkins, and together with John as Tevye “To Life”, was just one of the high spots in the production.
Lydia Clough in the part of Yente portrayed the Matchmaker so well and with more than a touch of humour in the dialogue.
So many character parts in this show and impossible to comment on each and every one, but well done to Ryan Wuyts as Mendel very good on stage with a range of emotions and timing, and also Fraser McLauchlan as Fydeka a Russian soldier, Trevor Marks as the Rabbi, Liz Watson as Grandma Tzeitel, Peter Fishwick good as the lead Constable, and not forgetting Anne Wilson as Fruma Sarah, the ghost of Lasar Wolf’s dead wife. I think Anne did really well, even more wailing towards the end of her solo would have been very scary.
This was a company show and one which the society did very well with David King directing here for the first time.
The chorus numbers were well sung and balanced. I always feel that some of the songs,ie “Little Bird” “Anatevka” “Sunrise Sunset” are very meaningful and call for rather more quiet, slower tempos to bring out the feel and words.
James Tovey as Musical Director had an Orchestra making some lovely authentic sounds, with a Mandolin adding another dimension, together with the sounds of Violins/Flute/Clarinet etc. As always James is sensitive to all the voices on stage and the balance was very good. The lighting was good and a good set with the usual house of Tevye which commanded the stage so well. A very well thought out programme-very colourful and informative.
I would like to give credit to the young men in the “Bottle Dance”, and also especially to Julie Slater for the choreography which was very effective throughout, also to David for his work with the company. A most enjoyable evening on a personal favourite show.
Many thanks all round and more great upcoming shows to enjoy in the future to look forward to.
Ann Platten, NODA East
AT a time when antisemitism is in the news, one of its starkest examples finds itself on a Witham stage. This must be one of the darkest musicals ever written, a tale of a Jewish village in imperial Russia under threat of a pogrom, the forcible removal of all the inhabitants.
Set in 1905, Jewish customs are a constant thread throughout the story. It opens with a routine called 'Traditions' and continues to examine the lives of the village’s families from all angles. As well as antisemitism, the story has other modern themes, such as the role of women – ‘ “Girls are people”, that’s radical ’ – and the plight of people in general, seen through the eyes of the cast's proto-Communist, who assures the villagers that great changes are afoot.
But the figure who looms largest is that of Tevye, and anyone playing him does so in the shadow of Topol, who will forever be identified with the role. Yet John Davies, in his WAOS debut, banishes all thoughts of other portrayals, and inhabits the role absolutely.
He is majestic, with a rich deep voice and a nice line in the subtle humour the role demands. His wife is played with her usual poise by Kathryn Adkins, returning to the Witham stage after a three-year absence. There are meaty roles too for Lydia Clough, Emily Smith and Corrina Wilson, and it was good to see the array of former WOW stars mixing it with their seniors.