In This Episode


COMPOSER: Jerry Bock

LYRICIST: Sheldon Harnick

BOOK: Joseph Stein

SOURCE: Sholem Aleichem’s short stories Tevye the Dairyman (1894)

DIRECTOR: Jerome Robbins


PRINCIPLE CAST: Maria Karnilova (Golde), Joanna Merlin (Tzeitel), Zero Mostel (Tevye),

OPENING DATE: Sep 22, 1964

CLOSING DATE: Jul 02, 1972


SYNOPSIS: Tevye, the local milkman, has five daughters that must enter into arranged marriages as dictated by the traditions of his culture. When Tzeitel, his eldest, chooses to make her own match, Tevye’s world is turned upside down and traditions become vulnerable.

After acclaimed musical successes commissioned by producers, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock set out to write a musical which was of personal, familial interest to them. Based on a series of short stories by Sholem Alecheim, Fiddler on the Roof explores the importance of Jewish traditions to the inhabitants of a small, Russian village. Beth Burrier summarizes the complex identities of Jewish-American theatre artists working on Broadway, many of whom were attacked by the House Un-American Activities Committee or faced other forms of antisemitic discrimination in their lives. Although a liberal wave saw an onslaught of Jewish-American stories on Broadway, Fiddler on the Roof was deemed risky by producers because its characters were Russian villagers, not Americans. Upon opening with a seismic performance by the blacklisted Zero Mostel, and despite a pleased general public, Yiddish writers took issue with the liberal message of the show. Work by director/ choreographer Jerome Robbins posited the piece as a new sort of musical, where the authors took a back seat to the vision of the director.

Beth Burrier is head of musical theatre at Manhattanville College in Purchase New York, and a principal conductor and the Associate Artistic Director of the College Light Opera Company in Falmouth, Massachusetts. She holds a Master of Music summa cum laude from Ithaca College, and a Bachelor of Music Education summa cum laude with honors from Otterbein University. Beth has been on the faculty at Baldwin Wallace and Penn State, and has taught Music Theatre History, Music Theory, Acting the Song, Audition Technique, Voice and Piano. National tours include RENTThe Full Monty, and Beehive the Sixties Musical.  


Fiddler on the Roof by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein, published by Limelight (2004)

Fiddler on the Roof, Original Broadway Cast Recording. RCA (1964)

Fiddler on the Roof, starring Topol and Neva Small, directed by Norman Jewison. MGM Films (1971)

Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, starring Sheldon Harnick and Lin Manuel Miranda, directed by Max Lewkowicz. Samuel Goldwyn Films (2019)

The Making of a Musical: Fiddler on the Roof by Altman, Richard and Mervyn Kaufman. New York: Crown Publishers, 1971. 

Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof, by Alisa Solomon, published by Picador (2014)

Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to Hollywood Star of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical by Barbara Isenberg, published by St. Martin’s Press (2014)

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