The story, set within a small Jewish town in Russia, is centred on one man, Tevye, and his struggle to maintain the religious and familial customs of his Jewish heritage. Although largely comical in nature, there is an underlying seriousness to the narrative, perceptible through the tense division of a close-knit family and the ultimate eviction of a Jewish community. These contrasting elements are achieved through the frivolous ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ and ‘Matchmaker’, juxtaposed by the heartfelt ‘Tradition’ and recurring ‘To Life’. With a show over 2 ½ hours long, there is a real danger of the play dragging, but thanks to the energy and focus of this performance, this is not the case at all.
It is easy to forget just how young this cast is, such is the standard of the performances. Whilst it seems unfair to single out particular members, it also seems unjust not to give special mention to some of the performers. Edd Bird, playing the lead role of Tevye, deals with the pressure remarkably and is particularly impressive. His performance exudes a confidence that belies his youth and offers the perfect balance of charming wit and playfulness with the tender, troubled musings of a loving father. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him. Jenna Eliot, playing Tevye’s strong-willed wife Golde, is also brilliant, and the chemistry between the two young actors is extremely convincing. The same is true of Tzeitel and Motel, played by Charlotte Smith and Joe Harrison respectively, who win the hearts of the audience with their portrayal of the ‘rebellious’ couple, opting for true love rather than social prominence. Jemma Wade, meanwhile, is delightful as Yente, the old and endearingly meddling matchmaker. One could go on.
There are moments of uncertainty, perhaps, from the orchestra, with the odd ‘off’ note and rhythmical glitch, but this improves as the show progresses and, given the jovial nature of the songs, such blips seem not to matter too much. Indeed, as the curtain comes down for the final bows, the impression left on the audience is one of awe and admiration for such a talented group of young actors, musicians and crew. There are no doubt a few proud parents watching too.