Fiddler on the Roof Production Resources

Fiddler on the Roof: Fiddler Facts

Share the following background information with your cast, crew and production staff to provide a better understanding of and appreciation for this landmark production.

Fiddler was based on stories by Sholom AleichemFiddler on the Roof, based on the short story "Tevye and His Daughters" by Sholom Aleichem, was one of the first musicals to defy Broadway's established rules of commercial success. It dealt with serious issues such as persecution, poverty, and the struggle to hold on to one's beliefs in the midst of a hostile and chaotic environment. Criticized at first for its "limited appeal", Fiddler on the Roofstruck such a universal chord in audiences that it became, for a time, the longest running production in the history of Broadway.

Set in 1905, Fiddler on the Roof takes place in Anatevka, a small Jewish village in Russia. The story revolves around the dairyman Tevye and his attempts to preserve his family's traditions in the face of a changing world. When his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, begs him to let her marry a poor tailor rather than the middle-aged butcher that he has already chosen for her, Tevye must choose between his own daughter's happiness and those beloved traditions that keep the outside world at bay. Meanwhile, there are other forces at work in Anatevka, dangerous forces which threaten to destroy the very life he is trying to preserve.

Fiddler on the Roof opened on September 22, 1964 with Zero Mostel in the leading role. It ran for 3,242 performances at the Imperial Theatre and opened the door for other musicals to deal with more serious issues.

The 1971 screen version featured Norma Crane, Molly Picon, and Topol.


Deeper Background

The characters of Tevye the dairyman, his unimpressed wife, his five daughters and other dwellers in the village of Anatevka, first came to attention in the stories written in Yiddish by the popular fiction writer who called himself Sholom Aleichem (literally "peace be with you" in Hebrew). The stories appeared in vairous publications in eastern Europe and then spread to Yiddish publications in America and elsewhere, in the years 1905 through 1910.

Over the years, they became world favorites in many languages. This continuing interest was vastly accelerated when in 1953 Arnold Perl, a long-time admirer of Sholom Aleichem's work, and that of I. L. Peretz and other popular Yiddish writers, put together a series of short plays. They were based on Aleichem's stories, including one by Peretz, which under the title of "The World of Sholom Aleichem" dramatically vivified the life of the Jewish "Shtetels" in Tzarist Russia, a picturesque, though impoverished life that had disintegrated considerably as a result of World War I and was thoroughly destroyed in World War II.

The success of "The World of Sholom Aleichem" encouraged Arnold Perl to plough the same field a bit more, and in 1957 Perl brought out a play about that indomitable milkman of Anatevka, which he called "Tevye and his Daughters." This prompted Joseph Stein to believe that the Tevye stories could be made into a musical, and Fiddler on the Roof was the result.


Facts At-A-Glance
  • Fiddler on the Roof is one of the great stage and film musicals
  • The story is based on the short story "Tevye and his Daughters" by Sholom Aleichem
  • It opened on Broadway on September 22, 1964 at the Imperial Theater
  • It originally ran for 3,242 performances
  • It featured music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and libretto by Joseph Stein
  • Zero Mostel played the protagonist Tevye the milkman, Maria Karnilova his wife Golde,Beatrice Arthur as Yente the Matchmaker and Bert Convy as Perchik the student revolutionary
  • Tevye was played by Chaim Topol (also known as just Topol) in later productions; he also starred in the successful 1971 film adaptation by Norman Jewison
  • The musical was revived on Broadway for the fourth time in 2004 with Alfred Molina as Tevye
Musical Numbers

The best-known songs from the tuneful but unconventional score are If I Were A Rich Man, Sunrise, Sunset and Matchmaker, Matchmaker. The full list of musical numbers are:
  • Tradition
  • Matchmaker, Matchmaker
  • If I Were A Rich Man
  • Sabbath Prayer
  • To Life
  • Miracle Of Miracles
  • Tevye's Dream
  • Sunrise, Sunset
  • Wedding Celebration/The Bottle
  • Dance Do You Love Me?
  • Far From The Home I Love
  • Chavala
  • Anatevka


The Broadway production won nine Tony Awards:
  • Best Musical Composer and lyricist: Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick
  • Leading actor: Zero Mostel
  • Featured actress: Maria Karnilova
  • Author: Joseph Stein
  • Producer: Harold Prince
  • Director: Jerome Robbins
  • Choreographer: Jerome Robbins
  • Costume designer: Patricia Zipprodt
The 1971 movie version won 3 Academy Awards®:
  • Best Scoring (John Williams' first of many Oscars)
  • Best Cinematography (Oswald Morris)
  • Best Sound (Gordon K. McCallum, David Hildyard)

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