Musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein from stories by Sholem Aleichem. Tevye, the dairyman is an old-fashioned father who, like the other fathers in the small village of Anatevka, has raised his children to uphold the age-old Jewish customs of his ancestors. Now the time has come to find husbands for his beloved daughters and as tradition dictates, suitable matches must be made. But this is Tsarist Russia, 1905 and as the nation teeters on the brink of great upheaval, Tevye is soon to find the young are guided by their hearts not their elders. Fiddler On The Roof features some of the most memorable songs in musical history, including Tradition, Matchmaker and the unforgettable If I Were A Rich Man.
The idea for a musical version of Shalom Aleikhem's stories began in 1960. Composer Jerry Bock, lyricist Sheldon Harnick and librettist Joseph Stein had already worked together on other successful shows, and a friend suggested they read Aleikhem's Wandering Star. Although they didn’t think it was a suitable case for musical treatment, they read more of Aleichem’s stories and settled on those about Tevye and his daughters.
They took Stein's first draft to producer Harold Prince, who turned it down, but did advise the team that the director they needed was Jerome Robbins. Eventually they got both Robbins and Prince on board. Stein took the theme of Tevye’s storytelling and created the action of the musical play around him. Tevye is the central character and many of the thoughts and emotions of the other characters are expressed through him, a device which reinforces both the importance of the character himself and the central place of storytelling in the Jewish faith and tradition.
Fiddler on the Roof had its premiere at New York’s Imperial Theatre on 22 September 1964 with Zero Mostel as 'Tevye'. The British premiere followed in 1967 with Topol as 'Tevye'. At the time the show was the longest-running Broadway production and the ninth longest-running musical in London's West End.
Original London West End Production 1967
Opened 16 February 1967, Closed 2 October 1971 at Her Majesty's Theatre
The original cast featured Chaim Topol as the milkman 'Tevye' and Miriam Karlin as his wife 'Golde' with their five daughters: Rosemary Nicols as 'Tzeitel', Linda Gardner as 'Hodel', Caryl Little as 'Chava', Joy Measures as 'Shprintze' and Diane Robillard as 'Bielke'. The cast also featured Cynthia Grenville as the matchmaker 'Yente', Jonathan Lynn as 'Motel', Sandor Eles as 'Perchik', Tim Goodman as 'Fyedka', Paul Whitsun-Jones as 'Lazar Wolf', Susan Paule as 'Fruma-Sarah', Derek Birch as 'Constable', Peter Ardran as 'The Fiddler', Heather Clifton as 'Grandma Tzeitel', Tony Sympson as 'Mordcha' and Terence Soall as 'Rabbi'.
Original directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins with direction reproduced by Richard Altman and choreography reproduced by Tom Abbott. Sets by Boris Aronson with costumes by Patricia Zipprodt and lighting by Richard Pilbrow.
Following Topol, who left this production on Saturday 17 February 1968, the role of 'Tevye' was played by Alfie Bass from Monday 19 February 1968 to Saturday 16 August 1969, by Lex Goudsmit from Monday 18 August 1969 to Saturday 14 February 1970, Alfie Bass then returned from Monday 16 February 1970 to Saturday 13 March 1971, Lex Goudsmit returned from Monday 15 March 1971 to Saturday 24 April 1971 with Barry Martin taking over as the last 'Tevye' from Monday 26 April 1971 through to 2 October 1971 when the production closed.
Following Miriam Karlin, who left this production on Saturday 17 February 1968, the role of 'Golde' was played by Avis Bunnage from from Monday 19 February 1968 to Saturday 16 August 1969, by Hy Hazell from Monday 18 August 1969 up to her accidental death on Sunday 10 May 1970 (see below), with her understudy taking over until Avis Bunnage returned to the role on Monday 18 May 1970 up to 14 November 1970. Stella Moray took over as the last 'Golde' from Monday 14 December 1970 through to 2 October 1971 when the production closed.
Sadly, while at a friend's apartment on her day off from playing 'Golde', on Sunday 10 May 1970, Hy Hazell collapsed when she choked on a 'large piece of fillet steak that had blocked the entrance to her windpipe' and died on the way to hospital. The inquest reported that her blood showed a very high alcohol level: "A high enough level to account for some carelessness about eating and possibly the swallowing of food and therefore to have been almost a certain reason for her choking." Hy Hazell had alledged that the week prior she had been knocked unconscious by an intruder that she had disturbed in her flat but the inquest into her death found no mark of any injury to her scalp or skull, and thus this was discounted as a reason for her death.
Two months after this stage production closed, the film version - starring Topol and Norma Crane as 'Tevye' and his wife 'Golde' - was presented at the Dominion Theatre from 10 December 1971.
1st London West End Revival 1983
Previewed 24 June 1983, Opened 28 June 1983, Closed 29 October 1983 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre
The original cast featured Topol as the milkman 'Tevye' and Thelma Ruby as his wife 'Golde'.
Original directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins with direction reproduced by Ruth Mitchell and choreography reproduced by Tom Abbott. Sets by Boris Aronson with costumes by Patricia Zipprodt and lighting by Benny Ball.
2nd London West End Revival 1994
Previewed 17 June 1994, Opened 28 June 1994, Closed 3 September 1994 at the London Palladium
The original cast featured Topol as the milkman 'Tevye' and Sara Kestelman as his wife 'Golde' with their five daughters: Jacquelyn Yorke as 'Tzeitel', Jo John as 'Hodel', Adi Topol-Margalith as 'Chava', Marsha Ward as 'Shprintze' and Alicia Davies as 'Bielke'. The cast also featured Margaret Robertson as the matchmaker 'Yente', Neil Rutherford as 'Motel', Peter Darling as 'Perchik', Kieran Creggan as 'Fyedka', David Bacon as 'Lazar Wolf', Karen Davies as 'Fruma-Sarah', Bruce Montague as 'Constable', Tim Flannigan as 'The Fiddler', Marsha Ward as 'Grandma Tzeitel', George Little as 'Mordcha' and Jon Rumney as 'Rabbi'.
Original directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins reproduced by Sammy Dallas Bayes with sets by Boris Aronson with costumes by Patricia Zipprodt and lighting by Nick Richings.
Adi Topol-Margalith, who played Tevye's daughter 'Chava' in this production, was Topol's real-life daughter.
"Compared to the other key sixties musical about political persecution - Cabaret - it lacks variety, depth and the ability constantly to renew itself. The irony is that, while the show is ostensibly about change, the audience goes to see a facsimile of the Robbins original here reproduced by Sammy Dallas Bayes. Even the great Topol, while he retains all of Tevye's twinkling humour, native cunning and liberal openness, seems to have settled into a comfortable routine. Is it my imagination or wasn't there once a little more anger in his complaint about divine injustice in If I Were A Rich Man? But he effortlessly dominates a show in which even actresses as fine as Sara Kestelman and Margaret Robertson are left struggling to build character - bricks without straw. In the end, this is popular museum-theatre." The Guardian
Topol first played the role of Tevye in London in 1967, repeated it in 1983, and now, at the age of 58, is assaying it for the third time... Topol's beard is whitening, his movements are slower, and his energy if not his big, booming voice is a little dimmed; but he is more plausible as a village patriarch, the father of several marriageable daughters, than in 1967, when he was a mere 32. He cuts a relaxed, charismatic figure, too, if at times a slightly ingratiating one... The presence of that fine, gritty actress, Sara Kestelman, as Tevye's wife does much to add astringency to the proceedings. And if the bust-up by Russians of the eldest daughter's wedding would be more robustly performed by three third-division football fans on a cold Monday night, the celebration itself is as captivating as ever. So is the dance. So are most of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's songs. On the whole, I enjoyed myself." The Times
"Fiddler on the Roof is a charmless and badly microphoned restaging of the original 1964 Jerome Robbins production, with Topol recycling his baritonal act of shimmying ingratiation as Tevye the milkman... The musical has not really dated, but the cheap-looking Jewish pantomime at the London Palladium certainly has. My sympathies to Sara Kestelman and Margaret Robertson, two favourite actresses, who border on adequacy as Tevye's wife and the insufferable matchmaker. The village butcher is played by an actor called David Bacon. So not even the casting's all kosher." The Observer
Fiddler On The Roof in London at the Palladium previewed from 17 June 1994, opened on 28 June 1994 and closed on 3 September 1994
3rd London West End Revival 2007
Previewed 19 May 2007, Opened 29 May 2007, Closed 16 February 2008 at the Savoy Theatre
A major revival of the classic musical Fiddler On The Roof in London starring Olivier Award winner Henry Goodman and directed by Lindsay Posner.
This new production of Fiddler On The Roof, one of the best-loved stage and screen musicals, comes to London for a limited season following a sell-out two month season last Christmas at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
The original cast featured Henry Goodman as the milkman 'Tevye' and Beverley Klein as his wife 'Golde' with their five daughters: Frances Thorburn as 'Tzeitel', Alexandra Silber as 'Hodel', Natasha Broomfield as 'Chava', Nicole Turner / Olivia Ravden / Kate Rawlings as 'Shprintze' and Jessica Hargreaves / Jessica Grant / Kirstey Hickey as 'Bielke'. The cast also featured Julie Legrand as the matchmaker 'Yente' and 'Grandma Tzeitel', Gareth Kennerley as 'Motel', Damian Humbley as 'Perchik', Michael Conway as 'Fyedka', Victor McGuire as 'Lazar Wolf', Juliet Alderdice as 'Fruma-Sarah', Steve Fortune as 'Constable', Adrien Mastrosimone as 'The Fiddler', Tomm Coles as 'Mordcha' and Vincent Pirillo as 'Rabbi'. The role of 'Golde' was played by Sue Kelvin from Friday 1 June through to Saturday 7 July 2007. The role of 'Motel' was played by Simon Delaney from Saturday 23 June 2007.
Directed by Lindsay Posner with choreography by Jerome Robbins, recreated by Sammy Dallas Bates, with additional choreography by Kate Flatt, designs by Peter McKintosh and lighting by Peter Mumford.
"When a trio of New York writers first proposed a musical about a Russian Jewish father marrying off his daughters against a background of Tsarist repression, the big noises of Broadway didn't want to know. Too ethnic, they complained meaning only Jews would come. Since then, Fiddler On The Roof has been produced in 75 countries and 50 languages. Lindsay Posner's thrilling, gut-wrenching revival will leave audiences in no doubt why. With Jerry Bock's staggeringly beautiful score based on traditional Jewish folk tunes, Sheldon Harnick's light-footed lyrics and a script by Joseph Stein, which takes us from wry Jewish comedy to the heartache of expulsion from the land, this is as good as musical theatre gets." The Daily Express
"There may be no bright colours in Lindsay Posner's new production of Fiddler on the Roof with its evocative, rackety set of planks and gantries, but the charaters are bursting with life... Henry Goodman gives 'Teyve' all the glorious eccentricities the lines demand. This is a comic tour de force. Yet there is more than comedy in Goodman's performance. He never lets the audience lose sight of the fact that Tevye is a poor man struggling through difficult conditions - balancing between laughter and tears, never failing into caricature or wallowing in tragedy." The Sunday Telegraph
"Lindsay Posner's triumphant Sheffield Crucible production of Fiddler On The Roof has been squished into the Savoy Theatre and has, paradoxically, expanded into a more intensely emotional show. A story of a father and his daughters, of matchmaking in a female-dominated household, it struck me that this is Pride And Prejudice set in a Jewish shtetl. A brilliant, beady-eyed Henry Goodman lives the part of Tevye, who keeps up a running commentary with God, whom he blames for everything - and who appears to be sitting in the upper circle. 'I know we are the chosen people,' he says, 'but once in a while, can't you choose someone else?' A great revival of one of the greatest musicals." The Mail on Sunday
Fiddler On The Roof in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 19 May 2007, opened on 29 May 2007 and closed on 16 February 2008