Playing the lead character in a hit Broadway classic is the pinnacle of any performer’s career.
Performing as Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof is about as complex and engaging as it gets. The play is dominated by its central character – more-so, arguably, then any other character in musical theatre history.
But Mike Sykes, who will be taking on the part when Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company’s production of Fiddler hits the town hall next month, is not daunted.
It is, after all, one he has already performed, in Bishop’s Stortford, in 2012.
“It is a dream role,” Sykes told the Reporter. “There are two or three parts that everyone wants – Teyve is one. Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and Higgins in My Fair Lady are the others. Everything evolves around them.
“Teyve is in 80 to 85 per cent of the show and eveyone else relies on him for the next line. There are hundreds of lines and 11 songs to learn so it is a demanding part and a huge challenge. But it is one I relish.
“Hopefully the audience will go home happy.”
Dealing with the pressure comes with experience. Sykes has that in abundance having performed in shows across the region.
“There are some nerves when you’re waiting in the wings but once you’re on it’s all systems go. Everything kicks in,” he says.
“Different directors bring different approaches, with innovative ideas and ways in which they want the play projected. This version is quite different than before, which is great.
“You’ve always got to be willing to better each performance.”
Set in Tsarist Russia in 1905, the story centres around Tevye and his wife Golde as they search for appropriate husbands for their three eldest daughters. In a break in tradition, the daughters refuse to accept the wishes of the matchmaker, Yente, and their father – moving further away from the customs of his faith – and instead marry men for love.
Meanwhile, the Tsars are evicting the Jewish people from Russia. At the end the Jews of Anatevka are forced to leave their homes. Sykes is quick to explain that it’s “no Chicago”.
“The score is among the greatest in musical theatre but the story is deep, sad in places and at times very funny. It’s gripping from start to finish, with little sub-plots throughout,” he says.
“Our director [Martyn Harrison] is putting us through our paces and we have a new musical director this year – he is very good.
“It’s been four months of hard work and everything is starting to take shape. We have three weeks to go and everybody is really looking forward to opening night now.
“Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company has a great reputation for putting on a super show. I don’t think they have performed Fiddler on the Roof for 20 years but it is one everybody enjoys. It is very emotional and people will leave with tears in their eyes – which is the desired affect.”
• SWMTC’s production runs from March 11-15. Tickets are available from saffrontickets.com or Saffron Walden Tourist Information centre.