THERE’S a lot to like about MLOC’s production of the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof, which had its gala premiere at the Alex Theatre, St Kilda on August 3.
Despite the Parkdale-based MLOC being a non-professional, not-for-profit community theatre group, co-directors Adrian Glaubert and his wife Sarah Cossey Glaubert can be proud of their faithful retelling of Sholem Aleichem’s classic story of life in the Russian village of Anatevka at the turn of the 20th century.
Fiddler on the Roof was first performed as a musical on Broadway in 1964 and the 1971 film starred Chaim Topol, who made a career out of playing the role of Tevye the milkman on stage more than 2500 times, including performances in Australia in 1998 and 2005. This production pays tribute to Topol, who died in March this year aged 87.
After a seven-month rehearsal period for almost 50 performers, MLOC created two casts – yellow and blue – which perform four times each during its season which closes on August 13.
Opening night featured the yellow cast with outstanding performances in the lead roles by Joshua Balbin as Tevye and experienced actor Elisa Gray as Tevye’s wife Goldie. Also impressive were Zara Phillips Mason as eldest daughter Tzeitel and Greg Hurvitz as butcher Lazar Wolf.
Veteran Geoff Sussman plays the rabbi, a role he last played in CLOC’s 2011 production of Fiddler on the Roof, and appears in both casts.
With an amateur theatre company such as MLOC which encourages participation as cast members, the standard of singing and acting varies in quality.
Full marks to the 11-member orchestra under musical director Kent Ross who provided professional-quality music to the many hit numbers including If I Were a Rich Man, Sunrise, Sunset and Matchmaker, Matchmaker.
The fiddler (played by classically-trained violinist David Hanner) plays in numerous scenes in an important role.
Dramatic dancing and lighting effects come to the fore in several scenes which proved to be highlights, including when Tevye and Lazar Wolf celebrate his engagement to Tzeitel, with Cossack soldiers at the village inn bursting into energetic dancing to the song, To Life.
Also spectacular was the dream scene with Tevye and Golde in a vertical bed, Rocky Horror Show style, as the ghost of Lazar’s late wife Fruma-Sarah (Jade Rosenberg) warns of severe retribution if Lazar marries Tzeitel.
And the wedding scene of Motel (Tim Allison) and Tzeitel is action-packed and covers the full range of emotions. A highlight is the “bottle dance” performed by members of Lehenda, a Melbourne-based Ukrainian dance company.
Apart from the interminable time taken between every scene change, MLOC’s Fiddler on the Roof was a successful staging of a timeless musical classic.
Fiddler on the Roof is at the Alex Theatre, St Kilda until August 13. Bookings: mloc.org.au