Preview: Fiddler on The Roof, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

A traditional musical like no other
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The Independent Culture

The musical Fiddler on the Roof was a huge success in the West End in the 1960s, but does it have anything to say today? The director Lindsay Posner, who is better known for his theatre and opera productions, certainly seems to think so - and a Broadway musical would have to be different to tempt the director.

His recent production of Sam Shepherd's Fool for Love starred the film and rock star Juliette Lewis, while his production of Tom and Viv, about the volatile true-life relationship between TS Eliot and his first wife, Vivienne, followed on from the success of Romance and The Hypochondriac in 2005. Posner was also associate director at the Royal Court Theatre from 1987 to 1992, where his production of Death and the Maiden won two Olivier Awards. So why is he now branching out into the traditional musical?

"I have been keen to have a go at a musical and Fiddler on the Roof has appealed to me for ages because there aren't that many musicals that have a really fantastic book that is as well-written as some plays, which this has," says Posner. "I felt it could take an interpretation that isn't about Broadway, where I could create a real, authentic, gritty community in which everything happens organically."

Fiddler on the Roof is about Tevye, the milkman (played by Henry Goodman) who wants to marry off his daughters in the traditional Jewish way, but he is hampered by the younger generation, who are following their hearts, not their elders.

The short, five-week rehearsal period for the musical has, Posner says, been "frenzied"; proceedings have so far involved research on Hasidic communities and Jewish shtetl (towns). "We have had two Rabbis come and talk to us and a Hasidic scholar came and gave us a slide show so that the customs we present and the way the community functions is as real as possible to 1905."

Posner concludes: "It is about people isolated in a country where they feel persecuted. The lead character is coming to terms with social and political change and progress with a traditional antiquated value system that is threatened."

30 November to 20 January (0114-249 6000, www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk)

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