Fiddler on the Roof, BODS at Bath Theatre Royal

ON the front of the programme for this show there is a note informing  this is an amateur production. Many people still confuse the word amateur, which comes from the French word for “lover of”, with amateurish, a description that most certainly can not be applied to Maisie Carter’s production for Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society.

The show is stylishly set, staged and lit, although you could argue with a few of the choices for changes in the lighting plot, beautifully costumed and played at a swift pace by a large company, sometimes there were a few too many on stage,  who put their heart and souls into the presentation. Plus a 13-strong orchestra, with not a keyboard in sight, producing just the right sound to go with Jerry Bock’s memorable score, and full support to soloists and chorus.

Compare that to a professional production of this classic musical that I saw in this theatre a few years back, which had limited scenery, was distinctly short on supporting members of the cast, and a group of principals who seemed well aware of the productions’ shortcomings and did not give the impression, as this group did, that they were all pulling in the same direction.

The company, Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society, lived up to their name, as they had to if they were to make a success of this show which requires singers who can act, or if you prefer actor who can sing. This story of Tevye, a poor milkman in 1905 Tsarist Russia, struggling to keep his family of wife and five daughters together in face of a changing world that threatens his beloved traditions and his faith, is full of natural good-natured humour. Lurking just below the surface are more serious, threatening, themes, (still all too prevalent in our modern world), of racism, bigotry and desire for ethnic cleansing.

For all his complaining, via direct conversations with God and  timed as well as any of his dialogue with other characters, Tristan Carter’s Tevye made sure that all the natural humour in the speeches was garnered as well as the important information contained was clearly given. There was the same happy mixture equally well delivered in the show-stopping If  Were a Rich Man, and the partnership with Barbara Ingledew, wonderfully steely-eyed and sharp tongued as his wife Golde, was cemented in the delightful Do You Love Me?.

Lydia Marsh, Shannon Crocker and Izzy Atkin as his three elder daughters Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava, having combined to good effect as a team in Matchmaker, Matchmaker, then went on to create three very different characters and to find three suitable partners in Motel the tailor (Jordan Phillpotts), the revolutionary student Perchik (Grant McCotter) and young Russian Fyedka (Django Lewis-Clark). You could see signs of her strong-willed mother as Tzeitel dominated and supported the diffident Motel. More of the gentleness of Tevye came to the fore as Hodel said goodbye to her father with lovely  poignant rendition of Far From the Home I Love. She found Grant McCotter a good vocal match for her in Now I have Everything’ Izzy Aikin and Django Lewis- Clark proved to an equally effective pair dramatically as Chava marries her Russian love Fyedka, outside the faith.

With both their roles cut aback a little in this version of the script, Anna -Marie Manley had to work that much harder, and did so to leave an indelible mark on proceedings as the lovable garrulous Yente the Matchmaker, and the bulky form of Dave Key-Pugh’s amiable Lazar Wolf could have been given a little more time in the spotlight. Lydia Giles and Tabitha Banham and Ottilie Rees-Davis and Beth Cragg on alternate nights, like many before them were ready to do a little scene stealing as the younger daughters Shprintze and Bielke.

Not all the big scenes were a complete success, the opening scene was a trifle untidy, “the dream”, for all SJ Adlington’s towering entrance as the ghost Fruma-Sarah, was not fully effected, and the final moments did not capture the tragedy of the Pogram that was driving all these people away from the homes  where they had always lived after just three days notice.

Such moments apart, there were many memorable scenes and performances and make you look back with happy memories of this production and forward to BODS next offering with keen anticipation.


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