Archive for October 19th, 2011

by Sam Juliano

Based on stories by Ukrainian writer Sholem Aleichem, the Harold Prince production of Fiddler on the Roof stands as one of the most beloved musicals in Broadway history, and has inspired productions all around the world.  The show debuted at the Imperial Theater in New York in September 1964 and ran till July of 1972, amassing an impressive 3242 performances.  It has spawned four revivals, and has been regularly performed by school and community groups.  It’s beautiful score has produced some of the most widely-loved standards of the past fifty years, but perhaps most significantly, it has galvanized audiences worldwide, celebrating as it does the transcendent themes of tradition during change, homelessness and suffering and religious faith and doubt.  But as was aptly suggested in the recent documentary on the writer Sholem Aleichem, Laughing in the Darkness,  this is central work in the Jewish experience, as it poignantly chronicles religious persecution and the indomitable spirit of  a people who stood steadfast in their devotion to God, community and family. Fiddler on the Roof, set in a Russian village, is a story set in a waylay station involving Jews moving to America at the turn of the century and of  the inevitable geographical transience that has occurred with many ethnic groups at different times.   The musical’s title stems from a painting by Marc Chagall, one of many surreal works he created of Eastern European Jewish life, often including a fiddler.  The fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through traditional and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance. (more…)

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