Fiddler on the Roof is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman), a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem that he wrote in Yiddish between 1894 and 1914, and is also influenced by Life Is with People, by Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog. Aleichem wrote a dramatic adaptation of the stories that he left unfinished at his death, but which was produced in Yiddish in 1919 by the Yiddish Art Theater and made into a film in the 1930s. In the late 1950s, a musical based on the stories, called Tevye and his Daughters, was produced Off-Broadway by Arnold Perl. Rodgers and Hammerstein and then Mike Todd briefly considered bringing the musical to Broadway but dropped the idea.
Investors and some in the media worried that the show might be considered “too Jewish” to attract mainstream audiences. Other critics considered that it was too culturally sanitized, “middlebrow” and superficial; Philip Roth, writing in The New Yorker, called it shtetl kitsch. For example, it portrays the characters of the local Russian officer and Fyedka as sympathetic, instead of brutal and cruel, as Sholom Aleichem had described them. Aleichem’s stories ended with Tevye alone, his wife dead and his daughters scattered; in Fiddler, the family ends up together, emigrating with hope to America. The show found the right balance for its time, even if not entirely authentic, to became “one of the first popular post-Holocaust depictions of the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry.” Harold Prince replaced the original producer Fred Coe and brought in director/choreographer Jerome Robbins. The writers and Robbins considered naming the musical Tevye, before landing on a title suggested by various paintings by Marc Chagall that also inspired the original set design. Contrary to popular belief, the “title of the musical does not refer to any specific painting”.During rehearsals, one of the stars, Zero Mostel, feuded with Robbins, for whom he had contempt because Robbins had testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was a closeted Jew, while Mostel was publicly proud of his heritage. Other cast members also had run-ins with Robbins, who reportedly “abused the cast, drove the designers crazy [and] strained the good nature of Hal Prince”.
Huntington Beach Playhouse Presents: Fiddler on the RoofDuring the month of November in 2013 …
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