Theatre reviews: Fiddler On The Roof and Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour

A scene from Fiddler On The Roof
A scene from Fiddler On The Roof
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Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour, Grand Theatre, Leeds *****

From the sharp wit of Dame Edna to the grotesque, slavering Sir Les Patterson, who pushes bad taste as often as he breaks wind, Eat, Pray, Laugh! is an ingeniously created extravaganza that acts as a vehicle for Humphries’ most popular characters.

It’s a high energy show that sees Humphries leave the stage only to emerge minutes later as a different character. We meet him as the inebriated cultural attaché Sir Les who has recreated himself as “Oz’s answer to Nigella Lawson”.

His hilarious non-pc repartee on everything from allergies to migration certainly spices up his cooking as does the arrival of his brother, a vicar with a flair for exorcism and a penchant for younger men. Humphries’ talent as an actor is reflected in his poignant portrayal of the gentle pensioner Sandy Stone.

In the second half we have the pleasure of meeting the iconic Dame Edna who begins by hilariously berating the audience about their dress: “Carol you are dressed for a special occasion like cleaning a car or helping a family pet give birth.”

Observations and repartee with the audience, come through fast and furious as we learn about her daughters’ pit-bull breeding in Beeston, her stay in a spa with some well known celebrities and uses her talent as a wedding celebrant “Tonight you are going to be solemnised” with two members of the audience.

Billed as Barry Humphries Farewell Tour one wonders if it really is. At the end he says “Promise me you will all come to my next farewell show.”

• To March 1.

Fiddler on the Roof, Bradford Alhambra ***

There’s a real fiddler on the roof, a cellist in the bedroom, a rabbi playing the bassoon and a backyard crammed with musicians. The reason?

After 50 years, Fiddler on the Roof has been repackaged and become an actor-musician show where every cast member plays their own instrument and with some brilliant orchestrations by Sarah Travis.

It works wonderfully The tale of Tevye, a milkman living in Tsarist Russia, who struggles to maintain his domestic and religious traditions against a backdrop of radical change and his three daughters who defy him by choosing their own “matches” started life as a series of tales written in Yiddish by Sholem Aleichem, before it was turned into a musical and an Oscar-winning film.

Craig Revel Horwood’s production has pace and passion and remains faithful to Jerome Robbins’ original direction and choreography although his interpretation of the Cossack/Jewish dance would have been more at home at a ceilidh or hoedown as it lacks pure Russian style.

As Tevye, Paul Michael Glaser, who played Perchik in the 1971 film, seems to struggle with his role in the early scenes. At times his dialogue is indistinct and he lacks the vocal power to do justice to the score especially the show’s hit song If I Was A Rich Man.

However, in the second act he really comes into his own with poignant and heartfelt moments that are pure gold.

Fiddler is a production packed with talent, teamwork and some wonderful cameo roles and if you have never experienced an actor-musician show it’s worth making that special effort.

• To March 1.