I’ve always had a relative fondness towards Fiddler on The Roof, with a vague memory of watching the movie, at least the ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ segment from the movie, at my aunt’s house when I was much, much smaller. Therefore, I was delighted to hear that not only the show was being revived on the West End, but that I’d be in the audience, experiencing the show in its full glory, as an adult, now able to appreciate it at a much deeper level than at the time of my initial exposure to the motion picture.
At its core, Fiddler on The Roof is about cultural identity, traditions (there’s even a song named after this!) tolerance and intolerance. To say that I did not expect to be so taken aback by this show would be an understatement. From the moment of walking into the theatre, where they’ve transformed the entire stalls section to have an immersive podium, it is clear that this is a special show. Apart from immaculate staging, the strength of the show lies within its excellent music, arranged beautifully to have such full-bodied harmonies that it is impossible to not get chills. Yes, Fiddler is mostly known for the iconic song that is If I Were A Rich Man, although it would be unfair to so many other compositions within the show to say that If I Were A Rich Man was the highlight of the show. More specifically, rarely have I ever got such goosebumps as I did while the cast performed Sunrise, Sunset, a gorgeous, heartfelt ballad about one’s children growing right up in front of your eyes.
Another mind-blowing aspect of the show was the choreography. During the more upbeat parts of the story, the shows employs some of the smoothest, liveliest bits of choreography tinged with ethnic influences I’ve had the pleasure of seeing on West End. It’s a shame that the vast majority of the musical doesn’t allow for the use of such choreography more frequently.
Fiddler is a long show at three hours long, although I can safely say that the three hours simply raced past, with the show never dragging. More importantly, there is no song, no dialogue that goes wasted, as it all feeds immensely into the core of the story. However, I was not a big fan of the ending, which was sudden and abrupt (ironic for such a long musical), with little connection to the what the show was portraying for the previous three hours. Yes, you do get one final nod to the importance of family and all, but this didn’t change the fact that it left a sour taste in my mouth once the lights came on.
Overall, Fiddler on The Roof is well worth the sparing three hours and provides a spectacle that is relatable and heart-warming for the most part. The gorgeous choreography and musical arrangements alone make the show a triumph, although there is little not to love elsewhere in the show.