They rebuilt the Everyman Theatre and now they’ve rebuilt the Company. It’s been 25 years since the Everyman had its own in-house rep and, after a tortuous selection process, the new family of 14 actors finally take the stage together. The company are both gender balanced and from broadly diverse backgrounds, some with decades of experience and others making professional debuts.
The first thing apparent on entering the auditorium is the additional seating added beneath the flytower, bringing the thrust stage into the round. Asked why she’d chosen to do this for the new season, Director Gemma Bodinetz explained that she wanted to emphasise the sense of an extended family gathering and that the audience are part of the company.
Programming one of musical theatre’s most family themed pieces speaks to the new company ethos too, as well as being a timely reminder of what it’s like to live in a neighbourhood under the impending threat of displacement.
The cast arrive en-masse as a lone fiddler strikes up the opening bars upon a low roof emerging from the stalls. George Francis’ orchestrations played by a four piece klezmer band show what a big sound they can make in the opening number, Tradition. Here we also get a feel for Tom Jackson Greaves’ immensely energetic choreography, which fills every inch of the space. Stage movement and musical energy is also outstanding in the later sequences for Tevye’s dream and the wedding, both of which build to breathtaking conclusions. There’s beautiful tenderness too, in Hodel’s Far from the Home I Love and Tevye’s Chavaleh.
Bodinetz has taken great care to bring out the ensemble nature of the work and the cast are very generous with each other, but the piece comes with obvious star roles. Patrick Brennan steps into Tevye’s shoes as though they were made for him, while Melanie La Barrie’s musical experience tells in her imposing reading of Golde.
Dean Nolan gives a joyously feisty and astonishingly physical Motel and, among a strong trio of lead daughters, Emily Hughes makes a tremendously distinguished professional debut as Hodel. She has great authority as an actor and matches this with a well rounded pitch-perfect singing voice.
The big set pieces grow organically out of the narrative under Bodinetz’s direction and are set against a warm, earthy colour palette, with lighting that shifts the mood to a steely grey for Tevye’s musings with God. The text has not been adapted to accommodate a modern context, but ingenious use of costume in the closing tableaux, as the cast assemble for their expulsion from Anatevka, makes a bold, contemporary statement to bring this electrically charged and lovingly considered production to a close.