Five Facts You May Not Know About FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Since taking its initial Broadway bow in 1964, there has not been a decade when a new production of Fiddler on the Roof has not opened on Broadway. Based on short stories by Yiddish humorist Sholom Aleichem, Jerry Bock (music), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Joseph Stein's (book) poignant tale of a younger generation's rebellion against the marriage traditions of their parents originally ran for 3,242 performances; Broadway's longest run until it was surpassed by GREASE.
Director Bartlett Sher will be helming the newest incarnation, with Danny Burstein starring as the devout, but sometimes exasperated father of five daughters, Tevye, with Jessica Hecht co-starring as his no-nonsense wife, Golde.
Like any Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof went though some interesting twists and turns on its way to Broadway. Here are five facts about the original production you may not know.
1) Zero Mostel turned it down at first. Though Tevye the dairyman seemed like a natural choice for an actor who held his Jewish heritage proudly, after his Tony-winning turn in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM he was anxious to go back to doing classical theatre and thought-provoking drama. There was also the matter of having to work with Fiddler on the Roof's director, Jerome Robbins, who had named names during the McCarthy witch hunt. When George Abbott brought Robbins in to help fix FORUM, Mostel agreed to work with him, but refused to acknowledge the man's existence outside of the theatre.
Before Zero Mostel reconsidered, most likely at the insistence of his wife Kate, who preferred her husband not turn down potentially lucrative projects, many big names auditioned for the role, including Alan King and Walter Matthau. A famous theatre story says that one well-known star stopped in the middle of his audition with the brilliant idea that they should get Zero Mostel for the role, to which Robbins snapped back, "If we could get Zero do you think you'd be here reading for it?"
2) The musical's title is taken from Marc Chagall's painting, THE FIDDLER (see above), which indeed shows its subject with one foot on a roof. Designer Boris Aronson based his set and the musical's logo on Chagall's style. At first the logo featured the daughters, but at Zero Mostel's insistence, the focus was changed to Tevye.
3) "Now I Have Everything" was originally Motel's song. While the show was rehearsing, Bert Convy, the original Perchik, envied Austin Pendleton's opportunity to sing that soaring ballad. He hinted to Harnick that it might be more appropriate for Motel to sing about Biblical miracles, like David's victory over Goliath. Harnick liked the idea and he and Bock penned "Miracle of Miracles" for Motel, allowing Convy's smooth baritone to grace the previous number.
4) Charles Durning played a priest during out-of-town tryouts, but the role was cut and the actor was let go.
5) One of the biggest concerns before arriving on Broadway was that there was no big showstopping number in the second act, comparable to the first act's "To Life." Several ideas were considered but eventually it was realized that Fiddler on the Roof's story was so strong that the overwhelming emotions of the book and songs made a splashy number unnecessary.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF will be directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, who most recently helmed the 2015 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of THE KING AND I. Sher has directed Burstein on Broadway in the revivals of GOLDEN BOY and SOUTH PACIFIC, as well as in WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. It will be choreographed by Hofesh Shechter, inspired by the original choreography of Jerome Robbins, and the music director will be Ted Sperling (THE KING AND I, SOUTH PACIFIC).
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. The show won the 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical in addition to eight other Tony Awards that year.
The design team includes scenic design by Michael Yeargan (Tony Award nominee, THE KING AND I), costume design by Catherine Zuber (Tony Award winner, THE KING AND I), and lighting design by Donald Holder (Tony Award nominee, THE KING AND I). Fiddler on the Roof will be their 5th Broadway production working with Sher, after SOUTH PACIFIC, GOLDEN BOY, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, and THE KING AND I. Sound design is by Scott Lehrer (A DELICATE BALANCE, SOUTH PACIFIC). Casting is by Telsey + Co./Abbie Brady Dalton.