“Tradition” and other much-loved music from “Fiddler on the Roof” returns to the Fisher Theater after its last Detroit run was cut short in March 2020 following the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fiddler on the Roof” had its tryout at the Fisher Theater in July and August of 1964, before moving to Washington, D.C., in August and September, and opening on Broadway Sept. 22, 1964, at the Imperial Theater.
With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and a book by Joseph Stein, the show is based on Sholem Aleichem’s, “Tevye and his Daughters.”
Set in Imperial Russian in 1905 in the fictional village of Anatevka, “Fiddler on the Roof” follows the story of Tevye, a milkman, who attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions in a world awash with change.
Each of his three oldest daughters wish to marry for love, breaking the tradition of arranged marriages, and each match is less acceptable to Tevye, as one marries a young, poor tailor instead of a rich, older butcher; the next marries a revolutionary; and the third marries outside of their faith.
The show received a total of nine Tony Awards, including 1965 Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book and a 1990 Tony Award for the Best Revival of a Musical.
“Fiddler” was the first musical in Broadway history to run for more than 3,000 performances, a record it held until it was surpassed by “Grease” a decade later.
The musical has maintained its popularity, was made into a movie in 1971, and is a popular choice for amateur community and school productions.
The original story, written in Yiddish by author Sholem Aleichem, was based on his own childhood near modern-day Kyiv.
When the story was being considered for a Broadway musical, it was turned down by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Some investors thought the story was “too Jewish” to attract broader audiences, while others argued that it was too sanitized and superficial.
In the original story, the local Russian official is cruel, while in the play, he is sympathetic; and in the story, Tevye’s wife dies and his daughters are separated from him, while in the play Tevye, his wife and his two younger daughter leave Anatevka to start a new life in America, while the three married daughters vow to join them there when they can save the money to make the voyage.
While some critics argue that the musical lacked authenticity, it was non-the-less hailed as a “popular post-Holocaust depiction of the vanished world of East European Jewry.”
The title of “Fiddler on the Roof” was inspired by three paintings of the early modernist Jewish painter Marc Chagall: “Green Violinist,” “Le Mort” and “The Fiddler.”
The music from “Fiddler” is well-loved, and many have become popular favorites. The show opens with the rousing “Tradition,” which sets the scene, followed by “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” in which the three oldest daughters wonder who they will be paired with, followed by Tevye’s “If I Were a Rich Man,” in which he good-naturedly bemoans his inability to provide a better material life for his wife and five daughters.
The songs follow the family’s rich cultural life, from “Sabbath Prayer,” which is sung by families as they bless the Sabbath meal, followed by “To Life,” when Tevye agrees on a match for his oldest daughter.
Other songs include, “Miracle of Miracles,” as Motel and Tzeitel celebrate Tevye relenting to their marriage, and “Sunrise, Sunset” at their wedding, which has become a popular wedding song.
In the second act, Tevye asks Golde, with whom his marriage was arranged, “Do You Love Me?” followed by “Far from the Home I Love,” sung when Hodel leaves to be with the revolutionary student Perchik, who has been banished to Siberia, and “Chavaleh,” in which Tevye is torn with heartache when his daughter Chava marries a Christian.
The show ends with the heartbreaking “Anatevka” as the Jews are forced from their village by the Tsar.
Performance dates are 8 p.m. Oct. 11 to 15, 2 p.m. Oct. 15 and 16 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Fisher Theater, 3011 W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
Tickets start at $30, and are available at the Fisher Theater box office, by calling 800-982-2787, and online at ticketmaster.com and broadwayindetroit.com.