Fiddler on the Roof 1973 Newspaper Articles

Fiddler’ starts in 18 days

The Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune, Wednesday, August 1 1973

Hastings first to see smash-hit musical

Hastings audiences get the first look in Hawke’s Bay at the world-popular musical “Fiddler on the Roof” exactly 18 days from today.

“Fiddler” based on the story of Tevye the Jewish dairyman who is evicted from Tsarist Russia in 1905, has broken attendance records both as film and a musical in Britain, America, Europe and Africa.

It has been so popular that there are at least three different full-length recordings of this musical on the market in New Zealand.

Now it is being staged live in Hawke’s Bay with the flavour, music and dancing of the original production which made the actor Topol a household name.

In the lead role of Tevye is Napier baritone Robert Houston, who is described by the producers as one of the few New Zealanders capable of doing the Topol part.

The producers are Napier Operatic Society whose string of successes in their 99-year history include last year’s joint production of “Oliver!” “Camelot”, “Sound of Music” “Vagabond King” “Music Man” “New Moon” and “Merry Widow.”

They are staging the musical for 2½ weeks, the first week in Hastings from Saturday fortnight to the following Saturday. On Wednesday August 29, the show will transfer to Napier.

The revolving stage, scenery and lighting will be set up in the Hastings theatre next Sunday when a team of men from Wanganui arrive to help the Napier stage crew assemble it.

When the job is completed later in the week, the cast will move into the theatre for intensive dress rehearsals, which will continue until the opening matinee on August 18.

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Surprise in post for Diana

Diana Stewart, the leading lady in “Fiddler on the Roof” is playing a role she never expected to get.

She is a Dunedin-trained singer who came to Napier a number of years ago and established herself with Napier Operatic Society and Napier Repertory.

She waited in the queue for 61 people who auditioned for roles in “Fiddler” and went home after a strenuous session, hoping that she had qualified for the chorus. A week later she got a letter in the post saying she has been chosen as Golde, Tevye’s wife and mother of five girls.

“I was stunned. It took a long time for it to sink in, but I’m enjoying every minute of it,” she said.

Her five daughters are being played by Robyn Houston (Tzeil), Jan Fulford (Hodel), Lynda Poynter (Chava) Bridget Alexander (Sphrintze) and Pauline Davidson (Beilke).

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Stage will be raised ten inches

The stage in the Hastings Municipal theatre is to be built up by 10 inches for “Fiddler on the Roof”

And when the show’s week-long season has ended, the staging is to be lifted carefully and transported to Napier for the Napier season.

The extra height is to accommodate the wheels and transistorised controls of a 30 ft diameter revolve which will swing Tevye’s house in and out of the seasons.

The revolve is much larger and more sophisticated than the unit which changed the scenery in “Oliver!” last year. It needs to be. It travels in two directions and at variable speeds.

Instead of sitting above the stage as did the unit last year, the stage is being built up to meet it and the revolve will be barely discernible. Sitting on top of it will be a large peasant cottage which swings round to reveal the interior.

The effect of the revolve will be that scene changes will take 30 seconds compared with the two minutes it would take to do the job manually. With 19 scene changes that would add 38 minutes to the duration of the show.

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City’s top performers in “Fiddler on the Roof”

The 13 Hastings people who qualified for the cast of “Fiddler on the Roof” include some of the city’s top performers in musical theatre.

Sadie Brown, whose character acting and powerful singing voice won her acclaim before she took on the direction of plays and musicals is coming back to the stage as Yente the matchmaker.

Christopher Gibbs, last seen in melodrama for Keirunga Players, Havelock North, is an Englishman with a rich baritone which has won him years of leading roles in British productions of “My Fair Lady,” “South Pacific,” “Showboat,” and “Rose Marie.” He will be playing the role of the grotesque butcher, Lazar Wolfe.

David Pipe, who last year made an impact in the lead role of the “Boy Friend,” is appearing as the radical student Perchik.

June Keough, who as Mrs. Sowerberry the undertaker’s wife in “Oliver!” last year, will fly across the stage in a harness and swoop among the cast as she signs the scary nightmare song. She is playing Frumasarah, the butcher’s bitter selfish wife, dead 20 years.

Also in the role of a person long-since dead is Jill Tobin as Grandma Tzeitel, who haunts Tevye in his sleep for making the wrong decision about his daughter’s marriage. Jill played the lead in “Merry Widow” earlier this year and was understudy to Nancy in “Oliver!” last year.

Digby Edgecombe, a Havelock North schoolteacher who featured as Barnaby in “Hello Dolly” plays the bumbling poor tailor Motel Kamsoil.

Anthony Bewley, the undertaker in “Oliver!” plays Nachum the beggar.

Terry Kelliher, an up-and-coming member of workshop groups, plays Mendel, the Rabbi’s son.

Other with minor roles are Brian Overend, Jean Hill and Beryl Ritchie.

And then there are Peter Dixon and Wayne Anderson as Sasha and Duvidel, two of the Russian dancers.

For all of them there has been a 15-mile journey from Hastings to Coronation St, Ahuriri, twice, thrice and sometimes four times a week for rehearsals. Some Sunday rehearsals have begun at 10 in the morning and ended 12 hours later.

Photo caption – Robert Houston in the role made famous by Topol.

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Critic says: ‘Fiddler’ is mighty fine entertainment

The Napier Operatic Society will lose nothing of its already high reputation with the production of “Fiddler On The Roof,” which opened to an enthusiastic audience in the Hastings Municipal Theatre on Saturday.

First-night audiences are frequently composed of friends and biased well-wishers, so that an audience response is not always a reliable indication of the intrinsic merit of a show. Let me say, then, that “Fiddler” is presented to such a high standard of professional expertise that it requires no audience claques to send it away to a good start.

Possibly I am one of the few people in Hawke’s Bay who, until Saturday, knew nothing of the music or story of this play, so that it came to me completely fresh. This piece is no more moulded in the standard pattern of musical comedy, than Hamlet” is a farce; “Fiddler” is a musical play, in which the songs and dancing are an integral part of the story.

For those, like me, who know nothing of the play’s background, it should be explained that the action takes place in a Jewish settlement in Tsarist Russia shortly after the turn of the century, when the first stirrings of revolution are becoming apparent.

It is a story as old as time and as new as tomorrow; a story of man’s attempt to cling to established customs and beliefs in the face of changing times and the disappearance of old traditions. But superimposed on this is the story of Jewish persecution through the ages.

PRINCIPAL architect of this successful presentation is Robert Houston in the leading role of Tevye, the poor dairyman with five daughters. This was a performance little short of magnificent. Mr Houston is rarely off stage and he is the focal point for most of the action. The quality of his singing has always been above reproach, but on this occasion he is called upon to carry a strongly dramatic role, and he succeeds in creating Tevye as a man of essential simplicity, but with a multi-dimensional character of many moods. At times of crisis Tevye holds conversations with God, and Mr Houston handled these moments with a child-like trust and simplicity that was poignant and moving.

As his wife Golde, Diana Stewart also created a rounded characterisation that complemented Mr Houston’s playing, and she presented an authentic picture of a bustling peasant wife.

THREE principal daughters – Robyn Houston as Tzeitel, Jan Fulford as Hodel and Lynda Poynter as Chava – all gave well-defined performances, as did their respective husbands Digby Edgecombe as Motel, David Pipe as Perchik and Hugh Sweeney as Fyedka. I was especially impressed with the work of Digby Edgecombe, whose characterisation was particularly clearcut as the hesitant and impecunious tailor.

Others among the major principals whose work stood out included Sadie Brown as Yente the matchmaker and Christopher Gibbs as Lazar, the rich butcher and unsuccessful suitor of Tzeitel.

A revolving stage enabled the many scene changes to be undertaken quickly and was particularly useful in the final scene when it was used without scenery to create a moving picture of the exodus of the villagers.

Mention must also be made of some fine Cossack dancing by a quartet of dancers comprising Robin Rickey, Malcolm Kenah, Wayne Andersen and Peter Dixon. For once we were spared the intrusion of a troupe of dancing girls, with more enthusiasm than technique, to hold up the action.

ANY CRITICISMS of this show must inevitably be personal preference. For instance, I found the candle-lit scene of “Sabbath Prayer” rather too gimmicky for my liking and the opening of the walls of the house to reveal a group of villagers seemed out of key with the simplicity of the action; the costumes of the menfolk were so alike they appeared to be a uniform, and Tevye the poor man looked rather better dressed than Lazar the rich man. I question, too, whether a Jewish rabbi in Russia in 1905 would use a blatant Americanism such as going “some place else.”

The non-speaking role of the fiddler is played by Bernie Reade, dressed in a scarlet tail-coat and emerald green pants – and looking remarkably like a leprechaun from Guide Ireland. He sits on the roof for most of the time, fiddling away merrily, and gives point to the traditional symbolism of the title. I would have preferred to see him remain aloof from the players, rather than stepping down and joining them on occasions.

But these are minor carpings only, and do not detract from the essential quality of the piece.

JAMES MORGAN as producer, Cec Fitzwater as musical director, and Leigh Jones as choreographer have undoubtedly done it again. The music is impeccable and a delight to the ear; the production is brilliant in conception and almost flawless in execution. In fact this production of “Fiddler On The Roof” is mighty fine entertainment. – E.B.

4975 saw ‘Fiddler’ in Hastings

The Napier Operatic Society’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” was seen by 4975 people during its Hastings season of nine performances.

The show drew a large house on Saturday night and was given an enthusiastic reception as the story of Tevye and the other Jews of the village of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia unfolded. By the end of the performance the members of the audience were clapping to the rhythm of the music.

It was a pity that for many in the dress circle the atmosphere of the opening scene was spoilt by the arrival of latecomers who were being shown to their seats mainly in the front seats – as Robert Houston in the principal role of Tevye was setting the mood for the whimsical and poignant musical.

This happens so often in Hastings that it is hard to understand why the house management does not issue instructions to ushers that latecomers are not to be admitted until the end of the scene.

People who have settled down to enjoy a concert or play deserve this consideration and those who are casual about their arrival time would learn after a while that it pays to be early.

Performers as well as the audience can be disturbed by the noise and movement of dilatory arrivals being shown to their seats, as this often means that some already seated have to stand up to let others past.

This was the only flaw in an otherwise excellent night’s entertainment.

Immediately after the show ended in the Hastings Municipal Theatre on Saturday night, 26 men including four from Wanganui where the scenery was built, dismantled the revolving stage and scenery to take it to Napier.

The men worked throughout the night and up until 7 o’clock last night in the Napier theatre where they built the stage up to 10 inches and out over the orchestral well by two feet.

At the rear of the stage they built a four foot wide bridge by 30 feet long to cover the drive unit of the revolve.

Most of the team will be back in the theatre tonight to set the lighting and adjust stage drapes.

The cast will rehearse tomorrow night and the Napier season of “Fiddler on the Roof” will begin on Wednesday – C.S.M.

Original digital file

CoozeL814_FiddlerNewspaper.pdf

People

  • Bridget Alexander
  • Wayne Anderson
  • Anthony Bewley
  • Sadie Brown
  • Trevor Darby
  • Pauline Davidson
  • Peter Dixon
  • Digby Edgecombe
  • Cec (Cecil) Fitzwater
  • Peter Fleming
  • Jan Fulford
  • Christopher Gibbs
  • Jean Hill
  • Robert Houston
  • Robyn Houston
  • Leigh Jones
  • Terry Kelliher
  • Malcolm Kenah
  • June Keough
  • Arnold McIvor
  • Betty McIvor
  • James Morgan
  • Brian Overend
  • Larry Painter
  • David Pipe
  • Lynda Poynter
  • Bernie Reade
  • Robin Rickey
  • Beryl Ritchie
  • Fred Robinson
  • Diana Stewart
  • Hugh Sweeney
  • Jill Tobin

Business

Napier Operatic Society Inc.

Date published

1973

Format of the original

Newspaper articles

Accession number

814/1959/46627

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