Fiddler on the Roof

Book by Joseph Stein. Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem. Music by Jerry Bock. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The original Broadway production opened on 31 December 1964 and was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, running for 3 242 performances.

Synopsis and Musical Numbers

The year is 1905 and a Jewish community in Tsarist Russia is trying to eke out a living in its shtetl in the village of Anatevka (PROLOGUE: TRADITION). Tevye is a milkman who has a personal relationship with God in whom he confides all. He strives, very hard, to keep up the traditions of his culture and religion. He has five daughters, itself a problem but what is more pressing is trying to find husbands for the eldest three children. Yente, the matchmaker, does her best, but with no money, no dowry to offer she finds that her work is very difficult. Even so, the girls dream of the love that they will find one day (MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER). Tevye makes his way home, dreaming of an easier life (IF I WERE A RICH MAN). He arrives just in time for the SABBATH PRAYER, which is echoed throughout the Jewish community.

Tevye is called to see the butcher Lazar Wolf, who is interested in marrying his eldest daughter Tzeitel. They make an agreement and celebrate L’CHAIM (TO LIFE). However, Tzeitel rejects the butcher�s proposal. She has her heart set on the young, impecunious tailor, Motel. The “new way” is that children shall decide partners for themselves (MRIACLE OF MIRACLES). But will Golde, Tevye’s wife accept this change in traditional values? Tevye conjures up a dream the relating of which he attempts to persuade Golde that Lazar Wolf is not a good match and that Grandmother would much prefer her granddaughter to marry the tailor (TEVYE’S DREAM).

Golde is persuaded and that is the first chink in the breakdown of traditional values. At the wedding ceremony between Motel and Tzeitel (SUNRISE SUNSET / WEDDING DANCE), there is a pogrom, an anti-Jewish demonstration, orchestrated by the Chief of Police, which casts into doubt the stability of Jewish life in Tsarist Russia. It is certainly a portent for things to come.

Tevye’s second daughter, Hodel, has fallen in love with Perchik, a political student and an activist against the repressive regime (NOW I HAVE EVERYTHING). Tevye refuses to give his permission for Hodel and Perchik to marry but they inform Tevye that they do not wish to seek his permission to marry but merely his blessing. Traditions are obviously changing. Tevye explains this to Golde, comforting her with the thought that love is constant (DO YOU LOVE ME?). Later, Perchik is arrested and is to be sent to Siberia. Hodel intends to join him. She promises her father they will be married, under a canopy, in the traditional Jewish way. Her father accompanies her to the railway station to bid her farewell (FAR FROM THE HOME I
LOVE).

Chava, Tevye’s third eldest daughter has fallen for Fyedka, a Russian soldier. Not only is he Russian, he is not a Jew and the bending of tradition this far is something that Tevye cannot reconcile himself to (CHAVELEH). From this point on, Chava ceases to be his daughter and is shunned.

Meanwhile, Anatevka itself is under threat (I JUST HEARD/THE RUMOUR). The Jews are being forced to leave their homes and many of them decide to go to live in America where many of them have friends and relations (ANATEVKA). That is to where Tevye and Golde and the two youngest children are to go. Motel and Tzeitel, who now have a child of their own, will join them. Chava and Fyedka, wanted by neither Jew nor Russian, go to live in Poland. The Fiddler on the Roof, the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people, will live on in all of them.

Mini Gallery

Fiddler on the Roof Fiddler on the Roof Fiddler on the Roof Fiddler on the Roof

Purchases from Amazon.com

From left to right above: 1. Fiddler on the Roof Original Broadway Cast CD – Deluxe Edition. 2. Fiddler on the Roof Original London Cast Recording. 3. Fiddler on the Roof Film Soundtrack. 4. Fiddler on the Roof 2004 Broadway Revival Cast Recording. 5. Fiddler on the Roof Special Edition DVD.

From left to right above: 1. Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories by Sholom Aleichem. 2. Fiddler on the Roof Script. 3. Fiddler on the Roof Vocal Score. 4. Fiddler on the Roof Vocal Selections. 5. Study Guide.

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