Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia in 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family's lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love – each one's choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of his faith – and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village.
The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. It remains the sixteenth longest-running show in Broadway history. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful Fiddler on the Roof (film)">1971 film adaptation and has enjoyed enduring international popularity. It has also been a popular choice for school and community productions.
Fiddler on the Roof is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman), a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem that he wrote in Yiddish between 1894 and 1914 about Jewish life in a village in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia at the turn of the 20th century. It is also influenced by Life Is with People, by Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog. Aleichem wrote a dramatic adaptation of the stories that he left unfinished at his death, but which was produced in Yiddish in 1919 by the Yiddish Art Theater"> Yiddish Art Theater and made into a film in the 1930s. In the late 1950s, a musical based on the stories, called Tevye and his Daughters, was produced Off-Broadway by Arnold Perl. Rodgers and Hammerstein and then Mike Todd briefly considered bringing this musical to Broadway but dropped the idea.
Investors and some in the media worried that Fiddler on the Roof might be considered "too Jewish" to attract mainstream audiences. Other critics considered that it was too culturally sanitized, "middlebrow" and superficial; Philip Roth, writing in The New Yorker, called it shtetl kitsch. For example, it portrays the local Russian officer as sympathetic, instead of brutal and cruel, as Sholom Aleichem had described him. Aleichem's stories ended with Tevye alone, his wife dead and his daughters scattered; at the end of Fiddler, the family members are alive, and most are emigrating together to America. The show found the right balance for its time, even if not entirely authentic, to become "one of the first popular post-Holocaust depictions of the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry". Harold Prince replaced the original producer Fred Coe and brought in director/choreographer Jerome Robbins. The writers and Robbins considered naming the musical Tevye, before landing on a title suggested by various paintings by Marc Chagall that also inspired the original set design. Contrary to popular belief, the "title of the musical does not refer to any specific painting". During rehearsals, one of the stars, Jewish actor Zero Mostel, feuded with Robbins, whom he held in contempt because Robbins had testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and hid his Jewish heritage from the public. Other cast members also had run-ins with Robbins, who reportedly "abused the cast, drove the designers crazy [and] strained the good nature of Hal Prince".
Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman with five daughters, explains the customs of the Jews in the Russian shtetl of Anatevka in 1905, where their lives are as precarious as the perch of a fiddler on a roof ("Tradition"). At Tevye's home, everyone is busy preparing for the Sabbath meal. His sharp-tongued wife, Golde, orders their daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze and Bielke, about their tasks. Yente, the village matchmaker, arrives to tell Golde that Lazar Wolf, the wealthy butcher, a widower older than Tevye, wants to wed Tzeitel, the eldest daughter. The next two daughters, Hodel and Chava, are excited about Yente's visit, but Tzeitel is unenthusiastic ("Matchmaker, Matchmaker"). A girl from a poor family must take whatever husband Yente brings, but Tzeitel wants to marry her childhood friend, Motel the tailor.
Tevye is delivering milk, pulling the cart himself, as his horse is lame. He asks God: Whom would it hurt "If I Were a Rich Man"? Avram, the bookseller, has news from the outside world about pogroms and expulsions. A stranger, Perchik, hears their conversation and scolds them for doing nothing more than talk. The men dismiss Perchik as a radical, but Tevye invites him home for the Sabbath meal and offers him food and a room in exchange for tutoring his two youngest daughters. Golde tells Tevye to meet Lazar after the Sabbath but does not tell him why, knowing that Tevye does not like Lazar. Tzeitel is afraid that Yente will find her a husband before Motel asks Tevye for her hand. But Motel resists: he is afraid of Tevye's temper, and tradition says that a matchmaker arranges marriages. Motel is also very poor and is saving up to buy a sewing machine before he approaches Tevye, to show that he can support a wife. The family gathers for the "Sabbath Prayer."
After the Sabbath, Tevye meets Lazar at Mordcha's inn, assuming mistakenly that Lazar wants to buy his cow. Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Tevye agrees to let Lazar marry Tzeitel – with a rich butcher, his daughter will never want for anything. All join in the celebration of Lazar's good fortune; even the Russian youths at the inn join in the celebration and show off their dancing skills ("To Life"). Outside the inn, Tevye happens upon the Russian Constable, who has jurisdiction over the Jews in the town. The Constable warns him that there is going to be a "little unofficial demonstration" in the coming weeks (a euphemism for a minor pogrom). The Constable has sympathy for the Jewish community but is powerless to prevent the violence.
The next morning, after Perchik's lessons with her young sisters, Tevye's second daughter Hodel mocks Perchik's Marxist interpretation of a Bible story. He, in turn, criticizes her for hanging on to the old traditions of Judaism, noting that the world is changing. To illustrate this, he dances with her, defying the prohibition against opposite sexes dancing together. The two begin to fall in love. Later, a hungover Tevye announces that he has agreed that Tzeitel will marry Lazar Wolf. Golde is overjoyed, but Tzeitel is devastated and begs Tevye not to force her. Motel arrives and tells Tevye that he is the perfect match for Tzeitel and that he and Tzeitel gave each other a pledge to marry. He promises that Tzeitel will not starve as his wife. Tevye is stunned and outraged at this breach of tradition, but impressed at the timid tailor's display of backbone. After some soul-searching ("Tevye's Monologue"), Tevye agrees to let them marry, but he worries about how to break the news to Golde. An overjoyed Motel celebrates with Tzeitel ("Miracle of Miracles").
In bed with Golde, Tevye pretends to be waking from a nightmare. Golde offers to interpret his dream, and Tevye "describes" it ("Tevye's Dream"). Golde's grandmother Tzeitel returns from the grave to bless the marriage of her namesake, but to Motel, not to Lazar Wolf. Lazar's formidable late wife, Fruma-Sarah, rises from her grave to warn, in graphic terms, of severe retribution if Tzeitel marries Lazar. The superstitious Golde is terrified, and she quickly counsels that Tzeitel must marry Motel. While returning from town, Tevye's third daughter, the bookish Chava, is teased and intimidated by some gentile youths. One, Fyedka, protects her, dismissing the others. He offers Chava the loan of a book, and a secret relationship begins.
The wedding day of Tzeitel and Motel arrives, and all the Jews join the ceremony ("Sunrise, Sunset") and the celebration ("The Wedding Dance"). Lazar gives a fine gift, but an argument arises with Tevye over the broken agreement. Perchik ends the tiff by breaking another tradition: he crosses the barrier between the men and women to dance with Tevye's daughter Hodel. The celebration ends abruptly when a group of Russians rides into the village to perform the "demonstration". They disrupt the party, damaging the wedding gifts and wounding Perchik, who attempts to fight back, and wreak more destruction in the village. Tevye instructs his family to clean up the mess.
Months later, Perchik tells Hodel he must return to Kiev to work for the revolution. He proposes marriage, admitting that he loves her, and says that he will send for her. She agrees ("Now I Have Everything"). They tell Tevye that they are engaged, and he is appalled that they are flouting tradition by making their own match, especially as Perchik is leaving. When he forbids the marriage, Perchik and Hodel inform him that they do not seek his permission, only his blessing. After more soul searching, Tevye relents – the world is changing, and he must change with it ("Tevye's Rebuttal"). He informs the young couple that he gives them his blessing and his permission.
Tevye explains these events to an astonished Golde. "Love," he says, "it's the new style." Tevye asks Golde, despite their own arranged marriage, "Do You Love Me?" After dismissing Tevye's question as foolish, she eventually admits that, after 25 years of living and struggling together and raising five daughters, she does. Meanwhile, Yente tells Tzeitel that she saw Chava with Fyedka. News spreads quickly in Anatevka that Perchik has been arrested and exiled to Siberia ("The Rumor/I Just Heard"), and Hodel is determined to join him there. At the railway station, she explains to her father that her home is with her beloved, wherever he may be, although she will always love her family ("Far From the Home I Love").
Time passes. Motel has purchased a used sewing machine, and he and Tzeitel have had a baby. Chava finally gathers the courage to ask Tevye to allow her marriage to Fyedka. Again Tevye reaches deep into his soul, but marriage outside the Jewish faith is a line he will not cross. He forbids Chava to speak to Fyedka again. When Golde brings news that Chava has eloped with Fyedka, Tevye wonders where he went wrong ("Chavaleh Sequence"). Chava returns and tries to reason with him, but he refuses to speak to her and tells the rest of the family to consider her dead. Meanwhile, rumors are spreading of the Russians expelling Jews from their villages. While the villagers are gathered, the Constable arrives to tell everyone that they have three days to pack up and leave the town. In shock, they reminisce about "Anatevka" and how hard it will be to leave what has been their home for so long.
As the Jews leave Anatevka, Chava and Fyedka stop to tell her family that they are also leaving for Kraków, unwilling to remain among the people who could do such things to others. Tevye still will not talk to her, but when Tzeitel says goodbye to Chava, Tevye prompts her to add "God be with you." Motel and Tzeitel go to Poland as well but will join the rest of the family when they have saved up enough money. As Tevye, Golde and their two youngest daughters leave the village for America, the fiddler begins to play. Tevye beckons with a nod, and the fiddler follows them out of the village.
§ The 2004 revival featured a song for Yente and some women of the village (Rivka and Mirala) titled "Topsy Turvy", discussing the disappearing role of the matchmaker in society. The number replaced "The Rumor/I Just Heard".
All of the characters are Jewish, except as noted:
Following its tryout at Detroit's Fisher Theatre in July and August 1964, then Washington in August to September, the original Broadway production opened on September 22, 1964, at the Imperial Theatre, transferred in 1967 to the Majestic Theatre and in 1970 to The Broadway Theatre, and ran for a record-setting total of 3,242 performances. The production was directed and choreographed by Robbins – his last original Broadway staging. The set, designed in the style of Marc Chagall's paintings, was by Boris Aronson. A colorful logo for the production, also inspired by Chagall's work, was designed by Tom Morrow. Chagall reportedly did not like the musical.
The cast included Zero Mostel as Tevye the milkman, Maria Karnilova as his wife Golde (each of whom won a Tony for their performances), Beatrice Arthur as Yente the matchmaker, Austin Pendleton as Motel, Bert Convy as Perchik the student revolutionary, Gino Conforti as the fiddler, and Julia Migenes as Hodel. Mostel ad-libbed increasingly as the run went on, "which drove the authors up the wall." Joanna Merlin originated the role of Tzeitel, which was later assumed by Bette Midler during the original run. Carol Sawyer was Fruma Sarah, Adrienne Barbeau took a turn as Hodel, and Pia Zadora played the youngest daughter, Bielke. Both Peg Murray and Dolores Wilson made extended appearances as Golde, while other stage actors who have played Tevye include Herschel Bernardi, Theodore Bikel and Harry Goz (in the original Broadway run), and Leonard Nimoy. Mostel's understudy in the original production, Paul Lipson, went on to appear as Tevye in more performances than any other actor (until Chaim Topol), clocking over 2,000 performances in the role in the original run and several revivals. Florence Stanley took over the role of Yente nine months into the run. The production earned $1,574 for every dollar invested in it. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography, and acting awards for Mostel and Karnilova.
The original London West End production opened on February 16, 1967, at Her Majesty's Theatre and played for 2,030 performances. It starred Topol as Tevye, a role he had previously played in Tel Aviv, and Miriam Karlin as Golde. Alfie Bass, Lex Goudsmit and Barry Martin eventually took over as Tevye. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;"> Topol later played Tevye in the 1971 film adaptation, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, and in several revivals over the next four decades. The show was revived in London for short seasons in 1983 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and in 1994 at the London Palladium. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">
The first Broadway revival opened on December 28, 1976, and ran for 176 performances at the Winter Garden Theatre. Zero Mostel starred as Tevye. Robbins directed and choreographed. A second Broadway revival opened on July 9, 1981, and played for a limited run (53 performances) at Lincoln Center's New York State Theater. It starred Herschel Bernardi as Tevye and Karnilova as Golde. Other cast members included Liz Larsen, Fyvush Finkel, Lawrence Leritz and Paul Lipson. Robbins directed and choreographed. The third Broadway revival opened on November 18, 1990, and ran for 241 performances at the George Gershwin Theatre. Topol starred as Tevye, and Marcia Lewis was Golde. Robbins' production was reproduced by Ruth Mitchell and choreographer Sammy Dallas Bayes. The production won the Tony Award for Best Revival.
A fourth Broadway revival opened on February 26, 2004, and ran for 36 previews and 781 performances at the Minskoff Theatre. Alfred Molina, and later Harvey Fierstein, starred as Tevye, and Randy Graff, and later Andrea Martin and Rosie O'Donnell, was Golde. Barbara Barrie and later Nancy Opel played Yente, Laura Michelle Kelly played Hodel and Lea Michele played Sprintze. It was directed by David Leveaux. This production replaced Yente's song "The Rumor" with a song for Yente and two other women called "Topsy-Turvy". The production was nominated for six Tonys but did not win any. In June 2014, to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary, a gala celebration and reunion was held at The Town Hall in New York City to benefit The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene, with appearances by many of the cast members of the various Broadway productions and the 1971 film.
The fifth Broadway revival began previews on November 20 and opened on December 20, 2015 at the Broadway Theatre, with concept and choreography based on the original by Jerome Robbins. Bartlett Sher directed, and Hofesh Shechter choreographed. The cast starred Danny Burstein as Tevye, with Jessica Hecht as Golde, Alexandra Silber as Tzeitel, Adam Kantor as Motel, Ben Rappaport as Perchik, Samantha Massell as Hodel and Melanie Moore as Chava. Judy Kuhn replaced Hecht as Golde on November 22, 2016, for the last five weeks of the run. Designers include Michael Yeargan (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes) and Donald Holder (lighting). Initial reviews were mostly positive, finding Burstein and the show touching. The production was nominated for three Tony Awards but won none. It closed on December 31, 2016 after 463 performances.
Fiddler was first revived in London in 1983 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre (a four-month season starring Topol) and again in 1994 at the London Palladium for two months and then on tour, again starring Topol, and directed and choreographed by Sammy Dallas Bayes, recreating the Robbins production.
After a two-month tryout at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England, a London revival opened on May 19, 2007, at the Savoy Theatre starring Henry Goodman as Tevye, Beverley Klein as Golde, Alexandra Silber as Hodel, Damian Humbley as Perchik and Victor McGuire as Lazar Wolf. The production was directed by Lindsay Posner. Robbins' choreography was recreated by Sammy Dallas Bayes (who did the same for the 1990 Broadway revival), with additional choreography by Kate Flatt.
A 2003 national tour played for seven months, with a radical design, directed by Julian Woolford and choreographed by Chris Hocking. The production's minimalist set and costumes were monochromatic, and Fruma-Sarah was represented by a 12-foot puppet. This production was revived in 2008 starring Joe McGann.
The original Australian production opened on June 16, 1967, at Her Majesty's Theatre in Sydney. It starred Hayes Gordon as Tevye and Brigid Lenihan as Golde. The production ran for two years. The first professional revival tour was staged by the Australian Opera in 1984 with Gordon again playing Tevye. A young Anthony Warlow played Fyedka.
In 2005 and 2007, Topol recreated his role as Tevye in Australian productions, with seasons in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Wellington and Auckland. The musical was again revived in Melbourne and Sydney in 2015–2016 with Anthony Warlow as Tevye, Sigrid Thornton as Golde and Lior as Motel.
Topol in 'Fiddler on the Roof': The Farewell Tour opened on January 20, 2009, in Wilmington, Delaware. Topol left the tour in November 2009 due to torn muscles. He was replaced by Harvey Fierstein.
The musical was an international hit, with early productions playing throughout Europe, in South America, Africa and Australia; 100 different productions were mounted in the former West Germany in the first three decades after the musical's premiere, and within five years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, 23 productions were staged in the former East Germany; and it was the longest-running musical ever seen in Tokyo.
A Hebrew language staging was produced in Tel Aviv by the Israeli impresario Giora Godik in the 1960s. This version was so successful that Godik soon produced a Yiddish version translated by Shraga Friedman. A 2008 Hebrew language production ran at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv for more than six years. It was directed by Moshe Kepten, choreographed by Dennis Courtney and starred Natan Datner.
Un violon sur le toît was produced in French at Paris's théâtre Marigny from November 1969 to May 1970, resuming from September to January 1971 (a total of 292 performances) with Ivan Rebroff as Tevye and Maria Murano as Golde. Another adaptation was produced in 2005 at the théâtre Comédia in Paris with Franck Vincent as Tevye and Isabelle Ferron as Golde. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival produced the musical from April to October 2013 at the Festival Theatre directed and choreographed by Donna Feore. It starred Scott Wentworth as Tevye.
The musical receives about 500 amateur productions a year in the US alone.
The film version was released in 1971, directed and produced by Norman Jewison, and Stein adapted his own book for the screenplay. The casting of Chaim Topol over Zero Mostel for the role of Tevye caused controversy at first. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;"> The film received mostly positive reviews from film critics and became the highest-grossing film of 1971. Fiddler received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Jewison, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Topol, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Leonard Frey (as Motel; in the original Broadway production, Frey was the rabbi's son). It won three, including best score/adaptation for arranger-conductor John Williams.
In the film version, the character of Yente is reduced, and Perchik's song to Hodel "Now I Have Everything" is cut and replaced by a scene in Kiev. The "Chagall color palette" of the original Broadway production was exchanged for a grittier, more realistic depiction of the village of Anatevka.
Theatre writer John Kenrick writes that the original Broadway cast album released by RCA Victor in 1964, "shimmers – an essential recording in any show lover's collection", praising the cast. The remastered CD includes two recordings not on the original album, the bottle dance from the wedding scene and "Rumor" performed by Beatrice Arthur. Kenrick writes that while the original Broadway cast version is the clear first choice among recordings of this musical, he also likes the Columbia Records studio cast album with Bernardi as Tevye; the film soundtrack, although he feels that the pace drags a bit; and some of the numerous foreign versions, including the Israeli, German and Japanese casts.
The musical's popularity has led to numerous references in popular media and elsewhere. The show or its songs have been parodied and covered widely:
Parodies relating to the show have included Antenna on the Roof (Mad Magazine #156, January 1973), which speculated about the lives of Tevye's descendants living in an assimilated 1970s suburban America. The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society"> H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society published a musical theatre and album parody of Fiddler on the Roof called A Shoggoth on the Roof, which incorporates the works of H. P. Lovecraft. In the film Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Robin Williams parodies "Matchmaker".
References to the musical on television have included a 2005 episode of Gilmore Girls titled "Jews and Chinese Food", involving a production of the musical. A skit by The Electric Company about a village fiddler with a fear of heights, so he is deemed "Fiddler on the Chair". In the Family Guy episode "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" (2003), William Shatner is depicted as playing Tevye in a scene from Fiddler. The second episode of Muppets Tonight, in 1996, featured Garth Brooks doing a piece of "If I were a Rich Man" in which he kicks several chickens off the roof. "The Rosie Show", a 1996 episode of The Nanny, parodied the dream scene, when Mr. Sheffield fakes a dream to convince Fran not to be a regular on a TV show. A 2011 episode of NBC's Community, entitled "Competitive Wine Tasting", included a parody of Fiddler titled, "Fiddler, Please!", with an all-black cast dressed in Fiddler on the Roof costumes singing "It's Hard to Be Jewish in Russia, Yo". Chabad.org kicked off their 2008 "To Life" Telethon with a pastiche of the fiddle solo and bottle dance from the musical.
Broadway references have included Spamalot, where a "Grail dance" sends up the "bottle dance" in Fiddler's wedding scene. The Producers (2001) includes a musical number in the style of Jerry Bock that features an actual fiddler on a roof. Also in 2001, Chicago's Improv Olympic produced a well-received parody, "The Roof Is on Fiddler", that used most of the original book of the musical but replaced the songs with 1980's pop songs. The original Broadway cast of the musical Avenue Q and the Broadway 2004 revival cast of Fiddler on the Roof collaborated for a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefit and produced an approximately 10-minute-long show, "Avenue Jew", that incorporated characters from both shows, including puppets.
Songs from the musical have been covered by notable artists. For example, in 1964, jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley recorded the album Fiddler on the Roof, which featured jazz arrangements of eight songs from the musical. AllMusic awarded the album 4 stars and states "Cannonball plays near his peak; this is certainly the finest album by this particular sextet". That same year, Eydie Gormé released a single of "Matchmaker". In 1999, Knitting Factory Records released Knitting on the Roof, a compilation CD featuring covers of Fiddler songs by alternative bands such as The Residents, Negativland, and The Magnetic Fields. Indie rock band Bright Eyes recorded an adaptation of "Sunrise, Sunset" on their 2000 album Fevers and Mirrors. Allmusic gave the album a favorable review, and the online music magazine Pitchfork Media ranked it at number 170 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s. In 2005, Melbourne punk band Yidcore released a reworking of the entire show called Fiddling on Ya Roof.
Gwen Stefani and Eve covered "If I Were a Rich Man" as " Gwen Stefani song)">Rich Girl" for Stefani's 2004 debut solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. in 2004. The song was inspired by the 1993 British Louchie Lou & Michie One ragga version of the same name. Stefani's version reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it remained for over six months. It was certified gold by the RIAA and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. It was also covered in 2008 and 2009 by the Capitol Steps, poking fun at Illinois politics, especially then-Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps performs the "Bottle Dance" from Fiddler as a "recurring trademark", including at the Drum Corps International World Championships.
The song "Sunrise, Sunset" is often played at weddings, Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;"> and in 2011 Sheldon Harnick wrote two versions of the song, suitable for same-sex weddings, with minor word changes. For example, for male couples, changes include "When did they grow to be so handsome".
Fiddler's original Broadway production in 1964 was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine, including Best Musical, score, and book, and Robbins won for best direction and choreography. Mostel and Karnilova won as best leading actor and best featured actress. In 1972, the show won a special Tony on becoming the longest-running musical in Broadway history.
Its revivals have also been honored. At the 1981 Tony Awards, Bernardi was nominated as best actor. Ten years later, the 1991 revival won for best revival, and Topol was nominated as best actor. The 2004 revival was nominated for six Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards but won none. The 2007 West End revival was nominated for Olivier Awards for best revival, and Goodman was nominated as best actor.
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Life with Father
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