The clash between tradition and innovation may be the central conflict of Fiddler on the Roof, but the Oxford Operatic Society's performance of this classic musical blends the two into a very enjoyable show. It was my first time at an OxOps show, but the cast and staging was so spot-on that I often forgot I was watching a non-professional group. I was soon lost in the familiar songs and scenes, whilst being pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of balletic dances and a Fiddler who behaves more as a semi-supernatural, Puckish figure than the literal musician we see in the film.
The Playhouse's stage is transformed into the rustic town of
The stand-out performances of the night came from Jo Lainchbury as Golde and Marilyn Moore as Yente, both relishing their comic scenes and sparking off the characters around them. Saffi Needham was also notable as Tzeitel, giving heart and honesty to the first of the musical's three romantic plotlines. Steve Mellin made a strong Tevye, although there were occasional moments where the music drowned out his singing (fortunately, this was soon rectified by the lightning reflexes of the sound team).
Glitches like this were minimal, and, when they did happen, were dealt with in a light-hearted and professional manner that made them part of the play. In the wedding dance scene, a bottle balanced on the head of the rabbi's son Mendel kept flopping to the side, an unintentional moment of humour that went down well with cast and audience alike. (Kudos to 13-year-old Max Wappner for weaving this into his performance and working brilliantly with the accidental comedy). The ghost scene was wonderfully spooky (to the point where it might perhaps be frightening for very young audience members), and there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that had the audience applauding, particularly between Tevye and Golde. The only real weakness was the fact that the stage itself was slightly too small for some of the bigger group dance numbers, causing them to lose a little energy.
OxOps are veterans when it comes to taking on the classic musicals, and have done an excellent job here. Head along to the Playhouse for a night out that will entertain everyone from families to musical afficionados, and watch the cast perform with as much gracefulness and expertise as...well, as a fiddler on the roof.