Tag Archives: Sholem Aleichem

Reasons To See Fiddler On The Roof (If You Have Not Seen It Already)

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Fiddler On The Roof for the second time.

Based on the stories by Sholem Aleichem, Fiddler On The Roof is the tale of Tevye (played in the current production by Danny Burstein), his family, his world and how both are changing.

Here are my reasons to see Fiddler On The Roof, if you have not seen it already.

  1. You don’t have to be Jewish to get the story. Tevye is a husband and father just trying to get by and do right by his family. We can all relate to that.
  2. It is the story of clinging to traditions in the face of adversity and change. In our increasing secular and technology driven world, it becomes harder to keep to the traditions of our family and our culture.
  3. There is a strong element of feminism running through Fiddler. Tevye has no sons and five daughters. In that community and that time, young people did not marry for love. They married because the town matchmaker chose their spouse and the father agreed to the match. His three eldest daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava choose their own husbands. If feminism is defined as a woman choosing to live life on her terms and if her only choice is marriage, then choosing of one’s spouse based on affection and mutual interests (as opposed to social status or income) is a feminist act.
  4. This is the story of refugees. At the end of the musical, the Jewish citizens of Anatevka are forced out of their homes and out of the shtetl they have called home for generations. The addition of the red parka worn by Burstein at the beginning and the end of the piece highlight how relevant this story still is. Nearly every day, we open the newspaper or turn on the evening news and hear about stories of refugees leaving heir homes due to persecution or war.
  5. Fiddler On The Roof is the penultimate act for a world that ceased to exist 70 years ago. A generation after Fiddler ends, communities like Anatevka will be decimated and her Jews slaughtered by the Nazis.
  6. Chava’s marriage to Fyedka. In some parts of the world, a mixed marriage is still considered controversial.
  7. For audience members who, like myself who are Jewish and can trace their ancestry to Eastern Europe, it is a snapshot of the world our ancestors knew.
  8. Sunrise, Sunset. There is no more universal song from Fiddler than Sunrise, Sunset. When we are parents, as much as we want to do for our children, we have to recognize that they must grow up and live life on their own terms.

This production is wonderful. I highly recommend it and I also recommend that anyone interested in seeing Fiddler On The Roof should get tickets immediately as the show closes on Dec 31.

Fiddler On The Roof is at The Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway, NY NY 10019. 

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Wonder Of Wonders Book Review

Fiddler On The Roof is many things. It is a classic Broadway musical. It is a story of a world and a generation that no longer exists. It is a story of a man and a family facing change, internally and externally.

Wonder Of Wonders: A Cultural History Of Fiddler Of The Roof is the story of how Fiddler On The Roof transformed from a series of short stories by Sholem Aleichem to a Broadway musical that premiered over 50 years ago and has since become part of the American and entertainment cultural landscape. Author Alisa Solomon takes the reader back in time to the original stories of Tevye the Milkman and his daughters. She follows the history of the stories as they were shaped and edited for the Broadway stage and beyond.

I’ve been a fan of Fiddler On The Roof for many years. Not just because it is the history of my people, but also because of the universal themes that anyone, regardless of their cultural or religious background can relate to. I was surprised when I finished the book and I felt like I just read a college textbook. While the story itself is interesting, I found the book to be a little on dry side.

Do I recommend it? If you’re a fan of the show, a fan of Broadway or a history buff, I would say yes. Otherwise, I would recommend to skip it all together.

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Fiddler On The Roof Review

The musical Fiddler On The Roof opens with a song that contains only one word in its title: Tradition. The denizens of Tsarist era Anatevka live and breathe tradition. Every aspect of their lives, from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep is defined by tradition. But the world is changing and those traditions are about to be shaken to their core.

Based on the story Tevye and his daughters by legendary Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem, the most recent revival has been open for only a short time. Tevye (Danny Burstein) is a poor milkman with five daughters. He lives in a world where everything and everyone is defined by rules that have been respected for an untold number of generations.  His wife, Golde (Jessica Hecht) tries to care for her husband and five daughters as best she can, considering their circumstances.

While Tevye and Golde live by the rules of their world, their elder daughters don’t know that they are going to change the rules. Eldest daughter Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber) wants to marry her childhood sweetheart, Motel (Adam Kantor), but her father has just agreed to a betrothal to the much older town butcher.  Second oldest daughter Hodel (Samantha Massell) falls for the new guy in town, Perchik (Ben Rappaport), a teacher with revolutionary ideas. Middle daughter Chava (Melanie Moore) breaks the biggest rule of all by marrying Fyedka (Nick Rehberger), a Christian boy. None of these matches were made by the town matchmaker, Yenta (Alix Korey). Adding to the shaking of Tevye’s world is the fact that Jewish towns are slowly being emptied of their residents by the government who is forcing them out.

As Tevye, Burstein is sarcastic, funny, charming, but also a man who is slowly realizing that the world he knows is slowly coming to an end. Hecht, in the role of Golde, represents the fact that Jewish women of this era, living in this socio-economic state were not meek and mild yes women to their husbands. They had to be strong, smart and capable to raise their children in very tough circumstances. As the eldest daughters, Silber, Massell and Moore represent a new generation of young women who wanted to make their own choices. They are not satisfied with living the lives that their mothers and grandmothers lived.

As a product of this world, I have always had a great affinity for this musical. It is a reminder of what was and will never be again. It is also a very human musical with themes of tradition, family, watching your children grow up and watching the world change. No matter who you are or where you are from, we can all relate to that.

This story also feels very timely, especially with the news from the Middle East and around the world.

I highly recommend this musical.

Fiddler On The Roof is playing at 1681 Broadway in New York City. 

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Fiddler On The Roof

The opening song Of Fiddler On The Roof is Tradition.

It speaks of a way of life that has been the standard for generations. But change is on the horizon.

Based on the stories by Sholem Aleichem, the original Broadway production premiered in 1964. 7 years later, the movie Fiddler On The Roof made it’s way to the big screen. Tevye (Topol) and Golde (Norma Crane) are a Jewish peasant middle aged couple with 5 daughters living in pre-revolutionary Russia. The world around them is changing. Their daughters are not content to let the local matchmaker and their parents determine whom they will marry. Outside forces are eager to see their Jewish neighbors forced out of the land they have lived and worked on for generations.

All great stories have a universality to them. Fiddler is no different. The themes of change and being fearful of that change, the dynamic between the older generations who want to keep everything as is and the younger generations eager of something new, watching your child grow up and make decisions that you might not approve of.

This show is part of my cultural DNA. I come  from this world, my great grandparents left the shtetls of Eastern Europe for America at the turn of the 20th century. I was lucky enough to see the 2004 Broadway revival. When the movie is on, I find myself singing along with the characters.

I recommend this movie.

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