Tony Award Winner: 1965, Fiddler on the Roof

24 Mar


I have a horrible story to tell about Fiddler on the Roof.  When I worked in the college library, we would do a fair share of helping with student papers, particularly the 100 levels.  One such composition class had its students every year watch Fiddler on the Roof and write a paper about it.  Very simple, almost high school level.    Most of the papers were incredibly boring, but one student’s paper was one of the most judgmental, ignorant things I ever read. In it she talked about how lazy all the people were there, how they all just sat around singing, how their traditions were stupid, and how her father was a Baptist minister and if they were not going to worship the one and only Jesus Christ, then they deserved whatever treatment they got.

This really doesn’t have to do with the musical, but I just had to put that story out there, because although I knew there were ignorant people in the world, I never thought I would come face to face with such meanness that went along with it.

Fiddler on the Roof is one of the great musicals of all time, in fact I can say if there is one Broadway musical that will be saved from the 20th century, it will likely be this one.   It’s a literary show, filled with allegory, messages, intelligence, and a huge breathtaking scope.   As a kid I didn’t really like it because I did not understand it–that’s one thing about this show, many musicals are easily keyed into by children because they are that basic–not Fiddler, this is very adult, and its meditations on change, on suffering, on aging, on tradition are ones that still resonate today.

The music in it is almost too well known–Tradition; Far From the Home I Love; Sunrise, Sunset; If I Were a Rich Man–you’ve likely heard these songs before.   The music is rich and deep and I have to give Zero Mostel huge kudos for playing the lead–this is not the character he normally plays, and he just wins it.

This is well worth your time.   This is the show you need to see, not necessarily the one you want to–and it will change you.

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