All Fiddlers great and small, whether at the London Palladium or in a space not much bigger than a parking-lot, know that they can’t really top Topol.
Yes, it was the legendary Zero Mostel who created the lead role of Tevye the dairy-man, when Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick turned Sholem Aleichem’s tales of Jewish shtetl life into a Broadway smash in 1964. But it was Chaim Topol who made the role his own, on both the big-screen and the West End stage (for yonks). Since then, Henry Goodman and the comedian Omid Djalili have played Tevye with terrific verve, but neither had that barrel-chested, peasant-stock immensity that was Topol’s forte.
Now, it’s the turn of actor Andy Nyman, often a presence behind the scenes (he lends his skills as magician, writer and director to Derren Brown’s shows), to step into the boots of this religious-minded rustic, in a fine revival by Trevor Nunn at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Perhaps my ears were playing tricks, but early impressions were that his accent makes the fictional Russian town of Anatevka sound not a million miles from modern-day Archway. But if Nyman doesn’t always sound the part, he looks it: a little youthful, granted, but with his big beard, labourer’s fore-arms and stout physique, he plausibly incarnates the fretful patriarch.