Classic tale

A fiddler on the stage

It's a classic story, steeped in tradition yet portraying an evolution of culture. A tale of empowerment, transformation and ultimately family. And for Adrian Glaubert and Sarah Cossey-Glaubert, it's about time that the Jewish people of Melbourne had their own, home-grown and authentically Yiddishkeit production.

Adrian and Sarah playing Tevye and Golde in ACR Theatre's production of Fiddler in 2017
Adrian and Sarah playing Tevye and Golde in ACR Theatre's production of Fiddler in 2017

It’s safe to say that Fiddler on the Roof lives in the hearts and souls of every musical theatre lover – Jewish or not. The heartwarming tale of Tevye, the village milkman, his wife Golde and their five daughters. As the tsar attempts to evict the Jews from their village of Anatevka, Tevye attempts to hold tight to his traditions, despite his daughters desperately wishing to marry for love, rather than be set up by the matchmaker – as was tradition.

It’s a story that has been told and retold, since first being staged in 1964.

For Adrian Glaubert and Sarah Cossey-Glaubert, the story is intimately entwined with their lives. In fact, seeing Fiddler on the Roof was the second date they went on, the couple told The AJN.

“It’s a story about people. It’s human,” Adrian simply said when asked why the pair chose Fiddler as their latest production. “There are so many incredible stories involved in the one story – female empowerment, tradition, faith. The stories go right to the heart.”

“There are core elements that solidify Jewish families. They evolve over time, and I love Tevye’s transformation. He is so empowering with his daughters. He has that moment of reconciliation,” Sarah echoed. “I love that he has daughters, as well, because women are essential to the Jewish home. And the story is so perfect, in terms of what women can do. It’s not about necessarily fitting in a box but about being allowed to be themselves, and forge their own identity and their own story.”

Cast members of the MLOC Production of Fiddler on the Roof with Geoff Sussman (centre) as the rabbi. Photo: Bridie Clark

The pair are staging Fiddler on the Roof alongside MLOC Productions. And while it’s a new production, using new technologies and immersing the audience in the senses of the story, the pair insist that it stays true to the core of the Fiddler story. So much so that they have a real fiddler on stage, playing live.

For Adrian, the fiddler represents Tevye’s subconscious, so it was really important to make him completely part of the production.

“I’ve seen lots of productions where the fiddler makes an appearance and then kind of goes away,” he recalled. “But the fiddler is really Tevye’s imagination, it’s his thought process. And we make him part of our show … he’s a fundamental character in our story.”

So what other differences can audiences expect?

One major difference is that this production isn’t following the same choreography as others before it. It was important that their production stayed true to the era it’s set in. That means true Cossack dancing, featuring students from the Lehenda School, which is Australia’s largest Ukrainian dance school, where Sarah is assistant director. It was important to her that the production stayed true to its Ukrainian roots.

David Hanner will play the role of the Fiddler. Photo: Bridie Clark

“You can’t change what’s a perfect story, right?” Adrian asked. “What we are doing is furthering the emotional intent. It’s going to pull at the heartstrings more than you can imagine. We utilise the audience and the space that we’re in, in a very powerful way.”

“We’re really staying true though to its origins,” Sarah said. “We’re not Americanising the accents, and where we can, we’re making sure that Yiddish words are supplemented. We want to position it really authentically.”

The other difference to this production is that each role has been double-casted.

For Adrian and Sarah, there are a number of reasons for this decision. First and foremost, they wanted to give as many people the chance to play these iconic roles, recognising that Fiddler is a bucket-list role for many in the theatre world. They’re also very conscious of what is going on at the moment in Ukraine, and the younger cast members who are involved, particularly those from the Lehenda School – two of whom are refugees from the Ukraine, where their fathers have remained to fight in the war.

Lara Stein Wittels will appear as Golde and Joshua Balbin as Tevye. Photo: Bridie Clark.

“We’ve brought rabbis in to make it feel more Jewish for the cast – most of whom are Jewish themselves,” Adrian explained. “We’ve had psychologists come in to talk to the cast about the emotional side of things, because it’s heavy. We’ve had to be really delicate in the process.”

Adrian also said that learnings from COVID times came into play. They didn’t want to be caught out with a sick cast, unable to perform the show for audiences.

It means that there is as a cast of around 50, as well as a live orchestra. And they’ve placed the performance in St Kilda – in the heart of the Jewish community – to make it more accessible to people who want to see it.

The couple said they’re exceptionally excited for the show and for the cast, because it has been a long road to get here.

“They have worked so hard to understand the characters, and a lot of them are really tapping into their own histories and their own stories,” Sarah said. “We really want to give Fiddler back to the community.”

Fiddler on the Roof is at the Alex Theatre, St Kilda from August 2-13. Tickets:




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