It is a bold move for any theatre company to take on a musical as monumental as Fiddler on the Roof. So RSD’s dramatic society and its new musical director Mr Sam Cuddy certainly weren’t playing it safe in presenting the story of Tevye, the milkman who struggles to understand how his Jewish faith and its traditions can be reconciled with the radical social ideas emerging in pre-revolutionary Russia. A marriage not arranged with the papa? Unheard of. Absurd!
The risk of staging such a demanding classic, brought with it a reward that was reaped by the delighted audiences who packed out the Assembly Hall on four successive nights in December.
The plot revolves around Tevye, and great responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the actor who plays this pivotal role, so casting a stage debutant is, well, unheard of… absurd! Yet on his first outing on the RSD stage, Matthew Stockdale was a revelation, and his portrayal of Tevye was a triumph. He held the audience all the way, from his opening explanation of the traditions of his people to his emotional farewell to family and friends when pogrom cruelly scatters the Jews of Anatevka.
“Love, it’s a new style,” Tevye declares as one by one his three eldest daughters, Tzeitel (Megan Forster/Ellen McLean), Hodel (Lucy Talbot) and Chava (Lauren Boyd) follow their hearts and arrange their own matches, ignoring the efforts of their irrepressible mother Golde (superbly portrayed by Abby Anderson) and the village matchmaker Yente (played with brilliant comic skill by Hannah Weir).
The other principal characters completed a truly talented lineup. The suitors, David Saygi (Fyedka), Matthew Magowan (Motel) and Patrick Forster (Perchik), all gave accomplished performances both in terms of acting and singing. Meanwhile Reuben Morrow (as Lazar Wolf) and Archie Hanna (as the Constable) showed great wit and timing in carrying out their roles.
The show bounded along effortlessly from one vivid scene and vibrant song to another. The music, played by a live ensemble, and sung with gusto by a fantastic chorus, was simply outstanding, whilst the lighting, the sound, the set, the costumes and makeup all contributed to an overall effect that could only be described as professional.
Congratulations to the RSD staff who produced the play, Mr Cuddy, Mr McDowell and Mr Boyd, as well as visiting director Wilfie Pyper. And well done to all the pupils and staff who were involved on the stage or behind the scenes.