Fiddler On The Roof AIMS - Adjudicator's Critique 2013

Tuesday 5th March 2013 at 12:00 PM

The following is the public section of the show critique for our production of Fiddler On The Roof, by AIMS Adjudicator, Richie Ryan:

Transforming a large open-plan warehouse into a workable and comfortable venue for a musical is no mean feat. You would have to bring in the roster stage, lighting rig, auditorium drapes, sound gear, carpets, seats, flooring and then follow on with your set, costumes, cast and crew. Well, that's just what Castlerea Musical Society had to do for their recent production of Fiddler on the Roof. WOW!

This dynamic group of over forty four years obviously put their heads down and rose to the challenge. They embraced what is a massive ask of any group with enthusiasm and commitment. Was it worth it? YES!

We were enthralled, entertained and enthused by their efforts for what was a wonderful production. You might say it takes a village to create a musical, and in the case of Fiddler on the Roof, nothing could be truer.

When the lights come up we are taken to the Russian hamlet of Anatevka in 1905 as the Tsar was evicting Jews from their villages. It is based on the Yiddish books of Sholem Aleichem about Tevye the Milkman, and dozens of other characters who were his neighbours. So in fact, the village and its people are the heart and soul of this musical.

Set design by John O'Donoghue was a highlight in this production. The overall effect was beautiful with the authentic wooden panelling and various high windows, giving a very impressive aesthetic backdrop for this production. The large open star portal units down stage were very effective. The large moving "Beams" were a stroke of genius! The sloped riser up stage left gave some excellent entrance and exit opportunities. The transformation into the "Bar" was excellent, particularly the "Shelving" unit! The cast appearing in the windows for Sabbath Prayer and within the front portals was beautiful. The bed was very impressive. The railway station was also skilfully realised and very clever. Well done! Lighting under the watchful eye of Niall Heaney and Liam Feeney was also eventful. The pictures were dramatic and colourful. Lighting design, and execution by Yvonne Hanbury, played a very large part in our overall experience.

This production from director Niall Heaney was confident and focused. Scenes were well rehearsed, pace was determined and staging secure. It was a pleasure to see such an honest production of a classic tale as this director embraced the joys of the original show in a somewhat contemporary aesthetic but never forgetting the heart of this story. The slightly pared back, picturesque adaptation was a risk, but it worked very well. We had many suitably pointed "Comedy" moments, dramatic impact and beautiful cinematic pictures from a director with a positive overall vision. Casting was also very secure.

David Cooke was the stock protagonist Tevye. His performance was understated yet never caricature and that's what made his performance engrossing. Tevye is easy to portray as a fool, a simpleton unwilling to face change, Cooke respected the role adding depth to the character with instinctive humour and appealing dramatic conflict. David captured and delivered this role with self-reliance and coolness. His singing was natural and compelling. A knockout performance! Majella Flanagan was the perfect foil for Tevye as Golde. This actress was self-assured, bringing energy to every scene. This character requires balance and Majella Flanagan delivered the sharp bluntness that is Golde with just enough toughness and tenderness required for the role. Comedy timing was measured and never overbearing. Majella was also a lovely expressive singer. Congratulations!

Caroline Madigan was admirable as the matchmaking dynamo that is Yente, offering great comic relief. This actress was sustained and consistent, building on the cliches and delivering this stereotypical character with just the right amount of clumsiness. Katy Sheridan was a delightful Tzeitel building a blushing relationship with Motel. A fine animated performance in Matchmaker. Ivan Moran was hilarious as the inept to protective Motel. This actor had great natural comedy timing and a fine singing voice in Miracle of Miracles. Adrian King captured the youthful naivety that is Perchik with a magnificent innate understanding of the role. He was compelling, young at heart and believable. His singing was also very strong!

Julie Connolly gave a riveting performance as Hodel. This actress understood the dynamic of this character and was suitably strapping and challenging yet soft-hearted. Far From the Home I Love was very moving and nicely measured. John Griffin was a great character actor for the expansive role of Lazar Wolf, the Butcher. This actor had us all laughing with him with his infectious comedy moments and his natural likeability. Accent was an issue, but in no way took from his espousal performance.

Lisa Hannelly was a beautiful Chava - our emotional daughter. This young actress was compelling. Joseph O'Flanagan was a charming Fyedka. He was suitably Russian, believable and resolute. Frances Cooke gave a powerful performance as the frightening Fruma-Sarah and we had a wonderful quirky performance from Clare Kelly as Grandma Tzeitel. Paraic Newman was the ever present Constable, strong and stern. This role was slightly underplayed and needed to be much more effusive. Christy Glynn was hilarious as The Rabbi. This actor was consistent with perfectly timed comedy moments. A joy! Niall Connaughton was suitably active as The Rabbi's son. John Callaghan was impressive as Mordcha and took control in the wedding scene. Daniel Doherty was a compelling and believable Fiddler and Niamh Callaghan; Shprintze and Cliodhna Harkin; Bielke did very well. If not slightly too tall for the two young boys!

This company brought energy, zeal and passion to the overall production. The singing was well managed, pleasant-sounding and delivered with passion particularly in Tradition, Sabbath Prayer, The Dream, Sunrise Sunset and Anatevka. Characters were well realised in every scene as they embraced the challenge. The Rumour was excellently rehearsed and delivered, crisp and confident.

We had some very impressive dance sequences from Choreographer; Vivienne Caldbeck-Moran. The choreography was seamless and within the capabilities of the large and mixed cast. Tradition was steady, To Life energetic, The Dream creative, and The Wedding Dance exciting. Excellent job!

Noel Kelly; stage manager and his team did an excellent job backstage. The scene changes were perfectly timed and executed with precision and confidence. The sound management under the stewardship of Liam Feeney was balanced and precise.

Musical Director Shane Farrell embraced this substantial score with enthusiasm and vibrancy. The expansive orchestra, including piano, accordion, flute, piccolo, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, violin, cello, bass, guitar and percussion enveloped the musical journey with full and expansive sounds that brought the musical experience to life. Shane was in full control at all times with restrained confidence and consistent support for the cast. Choral singing was excellent, harmonies balanced and vocal sounds rounded and dramatic. Soloists were always secure with suitable attack and phrasing.

Costume co-ordination and execution was excellent from wardrobe co-ordinator Angela Webb with appropriate Kippa's, short fringed prayer shawls, hats and ladies head scarves. The Russian costumes were also excellent while Hairdressing and Makeup was very well attended to in the production by the make-up team.

Congratulations to everyone in Castlerea Musical Society for a wonderful experience. Thanks to former AIMS President Mary Heaney for a warm smile and a welcome mat!

Richie Ryan
February 2013