Broadway

Fiddler on the Roof

A stage performance of Fiddler on the Roof

An award-winning Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof has touched audiences with its warmth, humor, and honesty. It’s the brainchild of Broadway legends Harold Prince and Jerome Robbins, book writer Joseph Stein, and songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Fiddler of the Roof is a story that captured the human longings for love, family, freedom, community, success, and meaning. With iconic songs like “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” this musical pleases the audience with its humor and heart.

Production History

The story of Fiddler on the Roof is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye and the Dairyman), a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem that he wrote in Yiddish from 1894 to 1914 about the Jewish life in a village in Imperial Russia. The story is also influenced by Life is with People by Elizabeth Herzog and Mark Zborowski. Aleichem wrote a dramatic adaptation of his stories but was left unfinished at his death. However, his work was produced in Yiddish in 1919 by the Yiddish Art Theatre and made a film adaptation of it in the 1950s. The musical adaptation was first released in the late 1950s and was produced off-Broadway by Arnold Perl.

Original Broadway production

After the tryouts at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre in 1964, the original Broadway production opened in September 1964 at the Imperial Theatre. It transferred to two more Broadway theatres and ran for 3,242 performances. The original Broadway cast included:

  • Zero Mostel as Tevye
  • Maria Karnilova as Golde
  • Joanna Merlin as Tzeitel
  • Julia Migenes as Hodel
  • Tanya Everlett as Chava
  • Austin Pendleton as Motel Kamzoil
  • Bert Convy as Perchik
  • Joe Ponazecki as Fyedka
  • Michael Granger as Lazar Wolf
  • Beatrice Arthur as Yente
  • Sue Babel as Grandma Tzeitel
  • Carol Sawyer as Fruma Sarah
  • Gluck Sandor as Rabbi
  • Joseph Sullivan as Constable

The show was revived on Broadway multiple times in 1976, 1981, 1990, 2004, and 2015.

Original West End production

The original West End production opened in 1967 at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The London cast included:

  • Chaim Topol as Tevye
  • MirianKarlin as Golde
  • Rosemary Nicols as Tzeitel
  • Linda Gardner as Hodel
  • Caryl Little as Chava
  • Jonathan Lynn as Motel Kamzoil
  • Sandor Elès as Perchik
  • Tim Goodman as Fyedka
  • Paul Whistun-Jones as Lazar Wolf
  • Cynthia Grenville as Yente
  • Heather Clifton as Grandma Tzeitel
  • Susan Paule as Fruma Sarah
  • Terrence Soall as Rabbi
  • Derek Birch as Constable

The show Fiddler on the Roof was revived in London for short seasons in 1983 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, and in 1994 at the London Palladium.

Plot Overview

Fiddler on the Roof is the beloved story of a tradition-steeped town of Anatevka, Russia, where the Jews and Russians live in harmony. During the course of the story, the traditions of Anatevka are both embraced and challenged by Tevye, a poor milkman, and his colorful community.

The story revolves around Tevye’s Jewish family, where the poor milkman has a sharp-tongued wife named Golde and five daughters. They were preparing for the Sabbath dinner when local matchmaker Yente brings them the information that the recently widowed wealthy butcher named Lazar Wolf wants to marry Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeitel. Everybody in the family gets excited, but Tzeitel, who wants to marry a poor yet hardworking tailor, Motel, a childhood friend. Tevye wants his daughter to reflect on these plans and thinks about harmony but says nothing aloud.

While working, Tevye was talking to a friend who tells something about the hard political situation in their country, with expelling the Jews and pogroms. A stranger named Perchick hears their conversation and scolds them for doing nothing more but talk. The men dismiss the stranger as a radical, but Tevyeinvites him home for a Sabbath meal to watch after a few of his daughters. After the Sabbath, Tevye gives consent to Tzeitel and Lazar’s wedding, so her daughter would never lack.

The next morning, Tevye’s second daughter Hodel mocks Perchik’s interpretation of a Bible story. Perchik then criticizes her for sticking to the old traditions of Judaism. He illustrates that the world is changing by dancing with her, defying the law against opposite sexes dancing together. The two began falling in love.

Tevye meets the local constable, who warns that the main ethnic group in the country is going to do pogroms of Jews in this settlement.

Tzeitel is devastated that his father agrees that she will marry Lazar Wolf, and begs her father not to force her. Motel arrives and says he wants to marry her and promises that she will never starve. Upon further reflection, Tevye agrees to it but worries how to break the news to Golde. While in bed, Tevye wakes up from a dream where the dead relatives say they are in favor of Tzeitel’s marriage to Motel. Meanwhile, Tevye’s third daughter Chava meets secretly with a guy named Fyedka, a gentile. The two fall in love, as well.

During the wedding day of Tzeitel and Motel, all Jews join the ceremony. Lazar gives a gift, but an argument arises with Tevye over a broken agreement. Perchik breaks a tradition by crossing the barrier between men and women to dance with Hodel. The celebration ends when a group of Russians ride into the village and smash the ceremony, ruining the gifts and injuring Perchik, who attempted to fight back.

Months later, Perchik proposes marriage to Hodel and also tells her he must return to Kiev to work for the revolution. Hodel agrees, and the couple tells Tevye that they are engaged. He resisted at first, but gives in eventually, knowing that he must change with the times. After a while, Perchik is exiled for his revolutionary views, and Hodel volunteered to follow her husband, wherever he may be.

A few months had passed when Motel was able to buy a used sewing machine and had a baby with Tzeitel. Chava asked Tevye to allow her to marry Fyedka. Tevye thinks about it, but marriage outside the Jewish faith is something he wouldn’t allow. Chava then decides to elope with Fyedka and Tevye wonders where he went wrong. Chava returns to town and tries to reason with his father, but Tevye refuses to speak to her and tells the rest of the family to consider her dead.

Meanwhile, they are caught up with the news that all the Jews were to be expelled from their homes and must go out of the country. They only have three days to leave. Tzeitel and Motel depart to Poland, while Chava and Fyedka leave for Krakow. Tevye, Golde, and their two youngest daughters leave the village to go to America.

Songs

Act I

  • “Prologue: Tradition” – Tevye and Company
  • “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” – Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava
  • “If I Were a Rich Man” – Tevye
  • “Sabbath Prayer” – Tevye, Golde, Company
  • “To Life” – Tevye, Lazar Wolf, Russian soloist, and Men
  • “Tevye’s Monologue” – Tevye
  • “Miracle of Miracles” – Motel
  • “Tevye’s Dream” – Tevye, Golde, Grandma Tzeitel, Rabbi, Fruma-Sarah and Company
  • “Sunrise, Sunset” – Tevye, Golde, Perchik, Hodel and Company
  • “The Bottle Dance” – Instrumental

Act II

  • “Entr’acte” – Orchestra
  • “Now I Have Everything” – Perchik and Hodel
  • “Tevye’s Rebuttal” – Tevye
  • “Do You Love Me?” – Tevye and Golde
  • “The Rumor/I Just Heard” – Yente and Villagers §
  • “Far From the Home I Love” – Hodel
  • “Chavaleh (Little Bird)” – Tevye
  • “Anatevka” – The Company

Awards

  • Best Musical, Tony Award (1965)
  • Best Book of a Musical, Tony Award (1965) – Joseph Stein
  • Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Tony Award (1965) – Zero Mostel
  • Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, Tony Award (1965) – Maria Karnilova
  • Best Producer, Tony Award (1965) – Harold Prince
  • Best Director, Tony Award (1965) – Jerome Robbins
  • Best Composer and Lyricist, Tony Award (1965) – Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick
  • Best Choreography, Tony Award (1965) – Jerome Robbins
  • Best Costume Design, Tony Award (1965) – Patricia Zipprodt
  • Longest-running Musical in Broadway History, Tony Award (1972)
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