Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
When Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein's Russia-set musical first appeared in 1964, the world, and America in particular, was waking up to a tidal wave of dissent. Women were being liberated, revolution was in the air and young people were speaking their minds, especially to their parents. All of this is reflected in the narrative about small-town milkman Tevye's travails in marrying his daughters off at the turn of the century fag-end of the Czarist regime, if not always in Craig Revel Horwood's new production for the Music & Lyrics company in association with the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.
The first half especially feels particularly cartoonish, as a largely young cast try too hard to be funny where subtlety and depth are required to make the humour really work. Things are on much surer ground with the song and dance routines, which are delivered by a cast who play instruments onstage, an inventive and effective touch which is fast becoming a Music & Lyrics signature.
At the heart of the show is Paul Michael Glaser's turn as Tevye, in a performance that's full of warmth and generosity. It's the second half when things really kick in, however, as Tevye squares up to just how much the times are changing. Beyond such serious intentions, it's love that wins out over ancient traditions and old divisions here, something best expressed by some fine singing and playing, not least from The Fiddler herself, played by Jennifer Douglas in an entertainment that looks at progress, prejudice and the enforced emigration of a Jewish community forever in exile as they set out to build a brave new world.
The Herald, October 4th 2013