Thursday, 10 January 2019
REVIEW: Fiddler On The Roof - St. Peter's Arts Centre, UCLAN, Preston.
We currently live with the underscore of debate and rhetoric surrounding Brexit, hard and soft borders, and free movement of people. We are also led into the provocation of discourse surrounding Human Rights and refuge; it is difficult to watch productions like Fiddler on the Roof and not feel compelled to question our current state of affairs. This classic Musical Theatre comedy, spliced with vignettes reflecting its challenging historical, social and political context, set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia in the early 20th century, has managed to bring audiences to their feet in applause but also to a place of contemplation for over 50 years. The work of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein was paid homage to by the 2nd year Musical Theatre students of The University of Central Lancashire last night, and justly received the same ready response from the audience.
Fiddler is no easy show. An almost endless first act demands creative direction and this was evidenced in abundance – this is not surprising; Mark Goggins and the rest of the creative team at UCLAN have made names for themselves and always ‘turn up’ when it comes to high quality productions.
This production hosted an excellent ensemble that made for fantastic stage architecture and an even better choral sound. Rich and diverse, they really should be applauded for motivating the performance and skilfully moving it along! The stage was busy, something that’s unavoidable with a popular course but for the most of the performance created interesting tableaux – I must say that I wanted a little more from the lads at the beginning in terms of expression, but they redeemed themselves in some excellent scenes later on with fantastic rapport.
I always enjoy the choreography of Fiddler and Emma Kays work was effective with such cast numbers! There’s something to be said for effective pedestrian movement, and the fantastic assemblage of cultural dances showed a real level of skill and craft from the cast. I have seen ‘The Dream’ framed better, but I haven’t seen it with a cast of 30+ on a relatively small stage so I think this was circumstantial!
A hat must be taken off to some of the principal cast who were fantastic and promising to the future world of musical theatre. Tevye, a difficult role under anybody’s mantel, was superbly portrayed by Lewis Hampson. Confident and charismatic in this daunting role, he really gave a lot, all to the audience's delight. I did long for a little more consideration to the nuances of the script employed by diligent use of pace and pause. Some lines were a little rushed and more craft could have been applied to the asides to the audience when Tevye is torn between his benevolence and tradition. This is a note that could have been heeded by most of the cast, some fantastic moments were lost owing to use of pause and reaction to the intended beats in the script being skimmed-over resulting in moments of comedic timing being lost. Unfortunately, other moments of comedy were forced in parts of the script when they weren’t needed. However, one must remember the age and stage of training of these young performers, but I do feel this performance deserves a critical judgement comparative to a professional performance as it was very close to being one!
Other mentions must be afforded to other fantastic portrayals on offer during this performance. Chloe Ann Price in the role of Hodel was outstanding: comfortable, confident and drew us in with her believable characterisation and wonderful voice – a solid understanding of acting through song here. The family were fantastic overall and, towards the second act, I really felt their rapport shone through the script and even in the moments of stichomythic exchange there was fantastic chemistry on stage. Golde performed by Kaleisha Standen was in good hands, I urged for her to really relax into the role and play on the comic elements of the script a little bit more, but her voice was faultless and added great technical skill to the score. The audience and I were also drawn to Motel and Lazar Wolf in the hands of Toby Scott and Daniel Grace; these two lads really embodied their characters and handled moments of pathos and comedy with ease – great stuff!
Stand out numbers for me and the audience judging their applause: Matchmaker; If I Were a Rich Man; To Life; The Rumour.
The performance was a success and the cast and creative should be duly celebrated for this excellent production of this classic. I would urge others to go and see the fantastic work up in Preston but I believe you’d all be too late, UCLAN Musical Theatre Performances sell out, and it’s not surprising!
Reviewer - Nick Hill
on - 9/1/19