♪♪♪ -Next on 'Great Performances,' an in-depth look at the Broadway blockbuster 'Fiddler on the Roof.'
-What Sholem Aleichem had written were people who were so real, they just leaped off the page into reality.
-The strength of the material has proven itself now for 50 years.
-♪ Sunrise, sunset ♪ -A timeless cultural landmark that still resonates today.
There is not a song in the Broadway canon more universal than 'If I Were a Rich Man.'
-♪ If I were a wealthy m-a-a-an ♪ -'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles' is next.
[ Applause ] ♪ ♪ -Major funding for 'Great Performances' is provided by... ...and by contributions from viewers like you.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Fiddle playing ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Fiddle playing ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -A fiddler on the roof.
Sounds crazy, no?
But in the little village of Anatevka, you might say that Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking their necks.
It wasn't easy.
You may ask, 'Why did they stay up there if it was so dangerous?'
♪♪♪ We stayed because Anatevka was our home.
♪♪♪ And how do we keep our balance?
That I can tell you in one word.
♪♪♪ -♪ Tradition, tradition ♪ ♪ Tradition ♪ -I remember... [ Chuckles ] ...when I said I was gonna do it.
I have a fan in Japan who has come to see me in different shows over the past 15 years.
She lives on an island.
She doesn't speak English.
And she writes to me, 'Dearest Joel,' and sends me presents.
And I wrote her recently saying, 'I'm doing 'Fiddler on the Roof' in Yiddish.'
And she said, 'That's my favorite musical.'
What is that?
What is that that makes it speak in so many languages and everybody thinks it's about them?
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -What's so special about this story, is that it all can relate to anybody who's ever been a parent, who's ever been a child, who's ever been forced to leave their home, who's ever been ostracized for what they believe or how they look.
This story remains so resonant and so relevant.
-Because it is a dark musical, and that can be satisfying, too, is that, in such entertainment, such high performance value of dancing and singing and melody and story and laughter, that, you know, there is the other side, which is to say it's not just fluff.
It's not just inconsequential. It's --It's life.
-And in those moments of darkness and reality like the ones we live in now, we have pieces of theater like this to remind us that we're not alone in the world and in history.
-On September 22, 1964, 'Fiddler on the Roof' opened on Broadway.
Composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick are here today to tell us about their hit show on... 'The American Musical Theatre.'
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -What was it about that moment in '64?
What did New York have?
New York was the capital of theater.
It was the capital of advertising.
It was the capital of magazines.
It was sort of New York in its glory.
It was a place where you could be an outsider to the rest of the country.
You were ethnic. You were Jewish.
You were Greek. you were Italian.
You were African-American. You could be gay.
And New York was this hub that allowed this crisscrossing of being who you were, but selling to the masses.
-We should introduce ourselves.
-In place of your usual glamorous hosts, you have two frightened writers today.
-[ Laughs ] -This is Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the lyrics to 'Fiddler on the Roof.'
-And this is Jerry Bock, who wrote the music to 'Fiddler on the Roof.' -[ Applause ] -♪ There's noodles to make and chicken to be plucked ♪ ♪ And liver to be chopped and challah to be baked ♪ ♪ Race with the sun so at the proper time ♪ ♪ The candles can be lit and blessed ♪ -♪ The noodles will be made ♪ -♪ And chicken to be plucked ♪ -♪ The chicken will be plucked ♪ -♪ And challah to be baked ♪ -♪ The liver will be chopped ♪ ♪ So at the proper time ♪ ♪ The challah will be baked ♪ -Et cetera.
-In 'Fiddler,' these outsiders who had come up through the family of the theater told their own story, told the story of their grandparents, of being ethnic, and made that American popular culture.
-Someone sent me a book by Sholem Aleichem called 'Wandering Stars.'
It's like a Dickensian novel about a Yiddish theater troupe touring all over Eastern Europe, and I loved it.
And I gave it to Jerry Bock, and he loved it, and we thought there's a musical in it.
We thought, who would be the right person to do the book?
And we thought of Joe Stein.
-And my father read the novel and did not think it could be musicalized.
And he then suggested the Tevye stories, which he fondly remembered from childhood.
The warmth of Tevye, his humor, his relationship with God, his deep humanism in the context of this very religious, formally religious, and rigidly religious background.
-Joe had read them in the original Yiddish, and so we got ourselves some translations of his short stories, and one by one fell in love with the writing, the ambience, the atmosphere, the connection it made with us, as well.
-Much of the most profound of Sholem Aleichem's writing was concerned with his people who were in this remarkable transition from tradition to modernity.
All of the spectrum of human emotions that you see in Sholem Aleichem's work were in him, the man.
He was funny and he was angry and he was neurotic and he was anxious and he was loving and he was ruthlessly ambitious about his own writings.
In some sense, he lived for -- and in his writing, he would put all those emotions out, in his letters and in his stories.
-I came to understand that Sholem Aleichem so thoroughly understood the people he was writing about that they really came alive.
My job was then to transfigure it so that it could be done on the stage.
I was working with Joe Stein, who was writing the dialogue, and I think Joe was kind of inspired.
He took from Sholem Aleichem and then added his own sense of humor, his own sense of humanity. -♪ Tradition ♪ -'Fiddler on the Roof' is set in the shtetl, which means an Eastern European market town with a large Jewish population.
-♪ The little town where Papa came from ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ A little town I'd like to see ♪ ♪ The way of life ♪ ♪ Where Papa came from ♪ -[ Horse neighs ] -♪ A way of life ♪ ♪ It's part of me ♪ ♪ Was it a good way? ♪ ♪ A bad way? ♪ ♪ It's not for me to answer yes or no ♪ ♪ It was the one way ♪ ♪ Where Papa came from ♪ ♪ Not so long ago ♪ -[ Bird screeches ] -♪ Not so long ago ♪ -It's a nostalgia for something that never really happened.
I think nostalgia's a very poisonous thing in a culture, and you never heard Jews say, 'Oh, I wish we could be back in the old country.'
They hated the old country. They -- Hardly -- I know many people my age, Jews, who don't even know what the old country was.
Which country was it? Um, you know.
For instance, like, the Irish who came here, they didn't really want to come here.
They just had to come here 'cause they were starving.
The Italians, you know?
There's many immigrant groups that came to this country that came here not because they hated their country.
They came here because -- mostly for economic reasons.
The Jews did not come here mostly for economic reasons.
They came here because they were being killed.
-We knew what the reaction would be.
You know, 'You want to do a musical about a bunch of old Jews in Russia who are going through a pogrom?
I mean, what are you, out of your mind?'
So it was our baby, and we worked on it on and off for a number of years.
-Sheldon and I, we'd become somewhat familiar with the book.
We'd separate, and I would guess as to what kind of music in terms of ambience, period, character, and so forth.
So I would send Sheldon a half a dozen melodic guesses.
-I always looked forward to these tapes that Jerry would send.
On each tape, one or two of them would coincide with ideas that I had for lyrics.
-Shel, here's an... [ Chuckles ] ...ersatz Hasidic swinger!
It's fun, and it's a little musical comedy, but it might be a kind of tour de force without being cheap, but -- but just being bubbly a-and spirited and kind of kooky.
See if you like this one.
[ 'If I Were a Rich Man' plays on piano ] ♪♪♪ -When you hear those tapes where he's plunking out those different tunes based on the research he's doing, and Harnick coming up with the right lyrics for the right moments in the right places.
That process, which when they stayed at it long enough, they were lucky enough to get them all right.
-♪ If I were a rich man ♪ ♪ Didle, doodle, didle ♪ ♪ Digguh, digguh, diddle, diddle-do ♪ ♪ All day long, I'd bity, bity, boom ♪ ♪ If I were a wealthy man ♪ -[ Singing in Yiddish ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -It is so specific to what it is to be a Yiddish, Jewish man in 1905 Russia.
Sholem Aleichem identified this man, this man's family, this man's plight, this man's location, and he kept saying, 'I'm coming back to him.
I have more stories to tell through him.
I identify with him.'
-[ Singing in Yiddish ] Oy.
-What Sholem Aleichem had written were people who were so real, they just leaped off the page into reality, and the girls were very real, so that was -- it was fun to write for them.
-Tzeitel, you're the oldest!
They have to arrange a match for before they can make one for me!
-And then after her, one for me. -So if Yente brings a match... -Oh, Yente, Yente!
[ Sobbing ] -When Tzeitel falls to her knees and says, 'Yente, Yente,' that's the inciting incident of the entire play.
She's had enough.
She's had enough of the matchmaking.
She's had enough of not making choices for herself.
And in many ways, 'Fiddler' is a female empowerment piece.
-♪ Matchmaker, matchmaker ♪ ♪ Make me a match ♪ ♪ Find me a find ♪ ♪ Catch me a catch ♪ ♪ Matchmaker, matchmaker ♪ ♪ Look through your book ♪ ♪ And make me a perfect match ♪ -If you think of just 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker' as a mini drama in three acts, act one is these two young girls who don't have a clue and they're dreaming about their future.
♪ Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match ♪ Waltz, beautiful, lovely, lyrical.
-♪ Night after night in the dark I'm alone ♪ ♪ So find me a match ♪ -[ Scoffs ] -♪ Of my own ♪ -[ Chuckles ] -Going back 2,000 years in the tradition of theater, without forced marriage, where would we be?
All the way through Shakespeare, all the way through -- all the way through Terence, all the way -- the whole thing.
I mean, that creates all the situations in which we get dads demanding one thing, the daughter doesn't want to do it, she's in love.
The tension between individual love and the demands of the parent and the community is a central question to the nature of Western civilization.
-The sister that's actually the first one, the one that's on the hook, who actually knows that Yente's been prowling around the house and is preparing to sell her off, she's like, 'Wait a minute. Let me wake you up.'
-♪ Hodel, oh, Hodel, have I made a match for you ♪ ♪ He's handsome, he's young, all right, he's 62 ♪ ♪ But he's a nice man, a good catch, true? True ♪ ♪ I promise you'll be happy, and even if you're not ♪ ♪ There's more to life than that ♪ ♪ Don't ask me what ♪ -It is possible that you will get somebody who is conceivably brutal, somebody who is egotistical, somebody who's vain, somebody who doesn't care about you.
-♪ You heard he has a temper, he'll beat you every night ♪ ♪ But only when he's sober, so you're all right ♪ -It's kind of like, 'Wait. Hold on. What?'
If you actually listen to that -- Instead of making it light and bringing this sort of, like, comedic value to it, if you actually listen to what they're saying, it's quite horrific that they don't have a choice and if somebody can pay a high dowry and if somebody can give them their money's worth, the girls are going to be theirs.
-Sholem Aleichem had nothing good to say about matchmakers.
When he writes in the 'Menachem Mendel' stories about matchmakers, not honorable.
Not an honest profession.
♪♪♪ And that's exactly what happens in Sholem Aleichem's 'Menachem Mendel' story which is made in a film called 'Jewish Luck' about this guy who's called The Man From Buenos Aires.
And it's very, very clear that the man is a white slaver.
♪♪♪ -How did these Jewish women end up in brothels in Argentina?
These procurers, they'd hang out at ports.
People would marry people. They would be matchmade.
There were plenty of people who thought they were getting married and somebody would come.
You know, this idea -- swept up off their feet and married, that they would marry their husband, and really just be being procured for white slavery.
♪♪♪ So there's women who see that there is no future for them, that there is, you know -- dark times are coming, and they have to get somewhere and, as concerns these Jewish women, had to make the choice to die where they were or to sell their bodies.
♪♪♪ -At the end of 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker,' Hodel and Chava are open to the realization that if they don't take control of their futures, they will become fodder in Yente's mill.
I mean, the raw product of Yente's business, right?
You can put the label 'tradition' on that if you want, but that's not really what's going on in the drama.
-♪ So bring me no ring, groom me no groom ♪ ♪ Find me no find, catch me no catch ♪ ♪ Unless he's a matchless m-a-a-atch ♪ -The end of 'Matchmaker' is a battle cry.
It's these three young women saying, 'This is our reality.
But we are going to change the world.
We're going to change things.'
Um, and they -- and so they do.
♪♪♪ -'Fiddler' opened less than a year after 'The Feminine Mystique' came out and was a blockbuster success.
It was still on the best-seller list when the show opened.
♪♪♪ -When I was working on the show, what was happening in society I think affected me peripherally.
I was trying to realize what Sholem Aleichem had written, but inevitably what was happening in the world had to affect the way I felt and the way I thought without my even realizing it.
-These ideas that Sholem Aleichem was grappling with 50 years earlier were very much part of the culture or maybe they're always part of our cultures.
[ Indistinct chanting ] -I played in the final today, and we won.
-How?! When?! -And it was brilliant.
I played the best ever.
And I was happy because I wasn't sneaking off and lying to you.
-I don't want her to make the same mistakes that her father made of accepting life, accepting situations.
♪♪♪ I want her to fight.
And I want her to win.
I don't think anybody has the right of stopping her.
-Fathers who have daughters become feminists, you know, and that's another thing that I find so beautiful about 'Fiddler,' is that it's because he has daughters that he loves that he has to go with the times and stand up to thousands of years of tradition and say, 'Ultimately, my daughter's happiness is important to me.'
♪♪♪ -I was cast as a son in 'Fiddler on the Roof,' uh, in the sixth-grade play, and I still remember my choreographer.
♪ At three, I started Hebrew school ♪ ♪ At ten, I learned a trade ♪ ♪ I hear they've picked a bride for me ♪ ♪ I hope, up town, she's pretty ♪ Turn.
♪ The sons, the sons ♪ ♪ Tradition! ♪ -Hey, Lin, how are ya? -Hi. How are you?
-Good. -We enter laughing.
So... -This is our -- This is my little abode.
-It's gorgeous. -This is where I work.
-You've got quite a Hirschfeld collection here.
-Oh, this is the 'Fiddler' in Japan.
That is one of my favorite stories of yours, the intermission at 'Fiddler' in Japan.
-Oh, yeah. One of the producers said, 'Do they understand this show in America?'
I said, 'Why do you ask?'
He says, 'Because it's so Japanese.'
-That sums up everything about the universal appeal of 'Fiddler.' -Yeah. Yeah.
-How did you decide what would be musicalized by Bock and Harnick and what stayed...? -Well we decided, among the three of us.
We talked about it.
You know, they came up with notions for songs.
Despite the fact that we were all successful, of all of the shows I've done, that was the most difficult to get a producer for, was 'Fiddler.'
I remember one producer that says, 'You know, I read it, and I really like it, I like it very much, but what am I gonna do for an audience once I run out of Hadassah benefits?'
-In order to understand the show, since I clearly did not understand it when the guys offered it to me, Sheldon gave me a book on shtetls.
So I signed on to do the show.
The budget was $250,000 for a musical, which today you can't do a one-man show off Broadway.
The guys asked me to direct it originally.
And I said, 'I don't -- I'm the wrong guy.'
And we talked, and I think maybe I said Jerry Robbins should do it, and my thinking was very clear.
I thought it had to have universality and his incredible adroitness at movement.
♪♪♪ What Jerry did with 'West Side Story' was a huge, incredible accomplishment.
-Jerry is the only genius I've ever met, my definition of genius being endless invention.
He never stopped inventing.
I mean, it's just so far above anybody else who's ever worked in movement in the musical theater.
I heard the score of 'Fiddler' I think up at Joe Stein's house in New Rochelle, I think it was.
And I called Jerry, and I said, 'There's a show. You've got to -- This is I think right up your alley.'
-Jerry Robbins was a very complicated man, a man with complicated feelings about himself, his sexuality, his ethnicity, his complicated and conflicted feelings about Judaism.
When he came to have his bar mitzvah, he hated this old tzadik who would come and, you know, teach him to read Torah.
-When Jerry Robbins was a little boy, he had gone back to this town Rajanka to visit the grandparents, and in 1958 he's in Europe and he went to Rajanka, and of course there was nothing there.
The whole Jewish population of Rajanka had been wiped out in the Holocaust.
Everything was gone.
♪♪♪ -To realize this was gone forever, it would only live in his memory or the memory of other people, this affected him greatly also.
-I think it's fair to say that he became very much the top of the creative mountain of the show that became 'Fiddler on the Roof.'
Something about Mr. Rabinowitz from Jersey City who had become Jerome Robbins of New York City Ballet and Broadway.
Something about his roots was gnawing at Robbins, and I think he tapped into something about the story and the notion of Eastern Europe and the pogroms that he was singular in his vision about the kind of musical that he wanted to have created, and he bludgeoned it.
-♪ Hey! ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Hey! ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Hey! ♪ [ Whooping and hollering ] ♪♪♪ ♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -We had regular meetings, and Robbins would say... -...'What is this show about?'
-And we would say, well, it's about this dairyman and his five marriageable daughters.
He'd say, 'No.
That is not what gives these stories their power.'
-Ultimately, we said, 'Oh, for God's sakes, Jerry, it's about tradition, isn't it?'
And Jerry said, 'Write that.'
-♪ Tradition, tradition ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Tradition ♪ ♪ Tradition, tradition ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Tradition ♪ -That unlocked everything that the show needed.
It was like an education to people like me about what that society was like, what a shtetl was like.
-♪ And who does Mama teach ♪ ♪ To mend and tend and fix ♪ ♪ Preparing me to marry ♪ ♪ Whoever Papa picks? ♪ ♪ The daughters... ♪ -He had demanded they write the opening number 'Tradition,' and then for the first eight weeks of directing the show in New York in a rehearsal hall, he wouldn't stage it.
And everybody was saying, 'Jerry, you have to stage the opening.'
He just wouldn't.
And then one day he staged it in half an hour.
-His choreography is simple and yet beautiful.
It's great storytelling.
The use of circles was really important to Jerry.
The circle of Tevye's family as the innermost circle.
And then there was the circle of the villagers in Anatevka and the shtetl.
And then the bigger circle is the Jewish people.
Jerry chose to make sure every character on stage had a name.
There were over 40 cast members and every single villager had a name... because they all mattered and they were all part of the circle of the village.
♪♪♪ -And I think with that in mind, he began to imagine a circle of tradition that eventually began to splinter and ultimately became... disappearing in parts to various places.
-'Fiddler on the Roof' presented a way of seeing it as a whole place rather than just some place that you fled.
And I think particularly in '64 that was sort of a liberation for some people.
♪♪♪ -[ Speaking Hebrew ] -The 'Shabbat' song. I love that song.
You know, when they light the candles. It's beautiful.
The music is so -- Oh, my God.
It's just, you know -- When he starts to sing, it's -- Yeah, right now I'm starting to tear up, you know, just thinking about the music.
-♪ May the Lord protect and defend you ♪ ♪ May He always shield you from shame ♪ ♪ May you come to be in Israel a shining name ♪ -You were surrounded by that love and supported by neighbors and friends.
It's a balance to try and hold true to how you identify yourself in the world.
-♪ May God bless you ♪ ♪ And grant you long lives ♪ -♪ May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you ♪ -For some people, the Sabbath prayer becomes more important now than perhaps it may have meant to their parents or grandparents in 1964.
We want to create a world that my kids will have, that they will pass on.
And I think in '64 it was more like, 'Let's go out into the world.'
I think now there's, 'Yes, of course, let's!'
But, also, let's have some traditions that we perhaps re-find, rediscover.
And 'Fiddler' gives us a passage to that.
Because 'Fiddler' is Janus-faced.
It looks two ways.
-♪ Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer ♪ -♪ Ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh ♪ ♪ Ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh ♪ -♪ Amen ♪ -Jerry was assiduous in saying, 'I am not going to stage a lot of numbers that look like they're in a musical.'
And he didn't.
They naturalistically danced when it was natural to dance.
The bottle dance was his exception.
[ Rock music playing ] ♪♪♪ -Jerry Robbins was always very well-prepared going into rehearsal.
We went to a Hasidic wedding.
He was very taken by the wildness of the dancing.
♪♪♪ One man was dancing with a bottle on his head.
I saw it, and I thought that was interesting, but that's all I thought.
He saw it, and he saw a dance.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I think it's a little bit like a marriage.
You know, I mean, you're holding a bottle on your head, and you're trying to keep your balance, when you're going into a very intense and profound relationship.
And how one maintains balance in that relationship is well-illustrated in the very nature of the bottle dance itself.
-♪ Hey! ♪ ♪ Hey! ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Hey! ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Hey! ♪ ♪♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -Then they went into this ecstatic dance, and I asked him about that because I found it so moving, and he said, 'To me, this is their communion with God, and they do it through movement.'
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey! ♪ -I remember something that Boris Aronson once said to me.
He and I were watching the bottle dance for the first time, and Jerry was waiting for our reaction.
And Boris turned to me.
He says, 'A guy who can do that kind of work, you have to forgive him anything.'
-Boris Aronson was one of the greatest figures in the history of scenic and theatrical design.
What I love about the way that Aronson created the set is that the little houses, everybody's window is looking into yours.
-The homes circled around in the proscenium, and that's repeated throughout the show in different sets.
Having the homes in the sky is an homage to Marc Chagall.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Robbins felt that there was a strong affinity between the material and the work of Marc Chagall.
♪♪♪ One of his paintings was of a man playing the violin, and he's standing -- He's actually floating just a bit above a roof, but he looks like he's standing on it.
And that picture fascinated us.
And one of us suggested as a title 'Fiddler on the Roof.'
-Jerome Robbins wanted the feel, the spirituality of the Marc Chagall canvases, but he also wanted Boris Aronson to do Boris Aronson's thing.
So they went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, and it was very fractious and very contentious.
-My father hated working with Jerry.
He also deeply admired Jerry.
-He would take a scene and say, 'I like this scene very much. Can you change it?'
I'd rewrite it, and he'd look at it and he says, 'This is really very good. I liked the first one better.'
-As difficult as he was to work with -- and, you know, he could be really mean and an awful man -- I would work with him any time. The end product is worth it.
Some of his invention rubs off on you.
You get more inventive when you work with Jerry Robbins.
-♪ If I were a rich man ♪ -Mm-hmm.
♪ Yada-dadda-dadda-dadda-dee ♪ ♪ Hiya-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha ♪ ♪ Yadda ♪ -♪ All day long, I'd bity bity bum ♪ -I'll do it my way. You do it your way.
-Okay. You do it your way, you'd do it... ♪ If I were a rich man, yadda... ♪ [ Laughter ] -Jerry Robbins said that, 'Tevye must be larger than life, and that's why I want to go with Zero Mostel.'
-Zero was very much an egoist.
He felt the need to be onstage off stage.
-A lot of Zero's behavior would've made people want to kill him, but when Zero did it they would laugh.
-The first day of rehearsal, we were all worried because there had been bad history between Robbins and Zero.
-I won't use the word 'hate,' but Zero did not like him for his revealing names to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
-Jerry had been a cooperative witness, and it was very tense.
I mean, Zero would make fun of him.
He would abuse him and insult him.
-I mean, it was not a thing people let go.
You know, people would constantly say, 'I saw you with Jerry in this restaurant,' or, you know, 'I heard you were at Jerry's house,' or, 'I saw you at the ballet with Jerry.'
'Doesn't this bother you?'
What they had over Jerry was not that he was a communist, but that he was gay.
-I knew that Jerry had held out for three years, and that he was threatened with a kind of exposure of his homosexuality, and he named names.
And I think that Jerry never forgave himself.
I think that he was full of guilt.
-It's hard to say 'Tevye is like this' or 'Tevye is this one thing' because Tevye is everything.
Tevye is unbelievably loving and generous.
-♪ God would like us to be joyful ♪ ♪ Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor ♪ -Tevye is unbelievably hot-tempered and short.
♪♪♪ -You can keep your diseased chickens!
-It's that amalgamation that makes the character so human.
-♪ I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen... ♪ -I honestly believe Tevye plays you.
In so many ways, my father found his identity through doing the stories of Sholem Aleichem, by doing 'Fiddler on the Roof' and playing Tevye.
And I think people get that experience from Tevye.
They transfer their own fathers when they look at Tevye, but, also, I think because he's connected to God, they get a sense of God, as well.
-They're best friends. They talk all the time.
They kibbutz. They talk.
God in his mind teases him by making the horse lame, by doing this stuff, by giving him five daughters and chickens and cows and not another man in his life.
He's the only man in Tevye's life.
He's his only male friend.
-It's enough you pick on me.
Bless me with five daughters, a life of poverty -- that's all right!
But what have you got against my horse?
-The thing that we love about him is that in the face of dire poverty and dire circumstances, of being forced out of your home and forced to leave, there's a life spirit that courses through him.
-Dear God... did you have to send me this news like that today of all days?
I know, I know we are the chosen people, but once in a while, can't you choose someone else?
[ Fiddle plays ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -It's not about abandoning everything in the face of complete change, but holding on to what will give life.
And I think everybody in their lives identify with that and yearn for that kind of ability to rebound.
-♪ If I were a rich man ♪ ♪ Ya ha deedle deedle ♪ ♪ Bubba bubba deedle deedle dum ♪ -♪ All day long, I'd bity bity bum ♪ ♪ If I were a wealthy man ♪ -♪ I wouldn't have to work hard ♪ ♪ Yabba deeba deeba ♪ ♪ Deeba deeba deeba deeby dum ♪ -[ Singing in Japanese ] -You know, there is not a song in the Broadway canon more universal than 'If I Were a Rich Man.'
That is -- You don't have to be from Russia.
You don't have to be from anywhere to get that sort of aspirational song.
-♪ If I were a rich man ♪ ♪ Didle deedle didle ♪ ♪ Dig dig diga, diga, didda deedle dum ♪ ♪ All day long, I'd bity bity bum ♪ ♪ If I were a wealthy man ♪ -♪ Wealthy man, wealthy man ♪ -♪ Wouldn't have to work hard ♪ ♪ Scabba deedy deedy, yabba-dabba deeby deeby do ♪ -♪ Oh, if I was ♪ ♪ A bitty bitty rich ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Yidle didle diddle didle dum ♪ -♪ I wouldn't have to work hard ♪ ♪ Ya ha deedle deedle, deedle deedle deedle deedle dum ♪ -♪ Lord who made the lion and the lamb ♪ -[ Singing in Yiddish ] -♪ Would it spoil some vast eternal plan? ♪ -♪ If I were a wealthy ♪ ♪ M-a-a-a-an ♪ [ Applause ] -The strength of the material has proven itself now for 50 years.
Every kind of production, every scale of production, from high school to Broadway, that whatever you do, wherever you do it, and whoever you have available to you, the strength of the material is so strong that 'Fiddler' always wins.
-♪ Do you love me? ♪ -♪ I'm your wife! ♪ -♪ Then you love me! ♪ -♪ I suppose I do ♪ -I'm not the traditional actor to play Golde.
I'm Christian, so I don't really know anything about this.
And, like, now I've learned a lot about it.
You can become a character that wouldn't be traditionally played by a person like you. You're like, 'Wow.
This person is now a part of me.'
It's crazy. That's why I love theater so much.
-♪ Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles ♪ ♪ God took a Daniel once again ♪ ♪ Stood by his side and miracle of miracles ♪ ♪ Walked him through the lion's den ♪ -We opened in Detroit.
There was a newspaper strike, and I called to find out what the newspaper reviews would have been had they'd been published.
And they were bad!
-The very first review from 'there are no memorable songs in this musical.'
-People were crying in the dressing rooms.
'Except for Zero, the cast is not much good.
The songs are bad.
The choreography is undistinguished.
The book is flat.'
I mean, it was just like... [ Laughs ] -During rehearsal, I was watching Maria Karnilova, who was our Golde, in the scene with Tevye where he said, 'Do you love me?'
And the way she replied, 'Do I was just so funny to me.
I thought, 'That's a wonderful beginning for a song.'
And when we got to Detroit for our pre-Broadway tryout, we put it into the show.
-Golde...do you love me?
-Do I ♪ Do you love me? ♪ -♪ Do I love you? ♪ -♪ Well? ♪ -They totally have sex, yeah.
Well, I think they probably have sex more than just the five times.
I definitely think that.
And I definitely think they probably have fairly, like, passionate -- not passionate, but connected sex.
But I don't think they ever talk about it.
-♪ For 25 years I've washed your clothes ♪ ♪ Cooked your meals, cleaned your house ♪ ♪ Given you children, milked your cow ♪ ♪ After 25 years, why talk about love right now? ♪ -Tevye is a little bit more of a luftmensch.
You know, he loves to dream. And she's more practical.
Golde is an equal in this marriage, and we delight in the play between them.
-♪ Golde, the first time I met you ♪ ♪ Was on our wedding day ♪ ♪ I was scared ♪ -♪ I was shy ♪ ♪ I was nervous ♪ -♪ So was I ♪ -♪ But my father and my mother... ♪ -I was watching it, and to my astonishment, I began to sob.
And I thought it's because my father and mother had had bitter, angry fights.
When I wrote the song, I was wishing that my father and mother had had this kind of relationship.
-♪ Do you love me? ♪ -♪ I'm your wife! ♪ -I know!
-He is frightened to hear the response and that she's frightened to give it because, uh -- because I think, when I speak about her emotion, she's frightened to name anything for fear that it will overtake her ability to reason through life.
-[ Singing in Japanese ] -In a way, it was the most romantic moment in the show.
Despite the fact that we're involved with three daughters and their boyfriends, this felt most romantic, because this was an older mother and father who finally recognize the word 'love.'
-♪ Then you love me ♪ -♪ I suppose I do ♪ -♪ And I suppose I love you, too ♪ -♪ It doesn't change a thing! ♪ ♪ But even so ♪ -[ Singing in Japanese ] ♪♪♪ -We had our backers' audition favorite in the show called 'When Messiah Comes,' and it was to be an ironic number when the villagers are told they're gonna have to leave.
-♪ When Messiah comes, He will say to us ♪ ♪ 'I apologize that I took so long ♪ ♪ But I had a little trouble finding you ♪ ♪ Over here a few, and over there a few ♪ [ Audience laughter ] ♪ You were hard to reunite ♪ ♪ But everything is going to be all right' ♪ [ Audience laughter ] ♪ 'Up in heaven there ♪ ♪ How I wrung my hands ♪ ♪ When they exiled you from the Promised Land ♪ ♪ Into Babylon you went like castaways ♪ ♪ On the first of many, many moving days ♪ ♪ What a day and what a blow ♪ ♪ How terrible I felt you'll never know' ♪ [ Audience laughter ] -It was a favorite.
When we get to Detroit, there's almost no laughter for 'When Messiah Comes.'
It just doesn't work.
People came from New York to see the show, and one of the first questions we asked was, 'Why doesn't 'When Messiah Comes'...?' And they would all look at us as though we were out of our minds.
They said, 'Are you crazy?
This is a moment of great poignance, near tragedy.
The villagers are told they're gonna have to leave the place where they've lived all their lives, sell their goods and be out in three days.
How can the audience accept it?
You know, it's embarrassing. It's awkward.'
So we cut it.
-We worked hard every day on the changes and put them in at night and all that.
And then we opened it in Washington, and the reviews were raves, probably the best review that that original cast ever got.
And I committed a sin that, in Jerry Robbins Land, is sin.
I became complacent.
I'm thinking, 'Ah, I think I'm on top of this now.
I think I got it.'
Finally, one day, he told the whole cast he had hated the Tuesday night performance, and he went down one by one, just tearing everyone to shreds.
He took me aside, and he was mean.
And I got so upset that I was crying.
'I had to leave the theater during the wedding scene,' he said. 'The idea of that wonderful young woman being married to you made me sick.'
-♪ Now I have everything ♪ ♪ Not only everything, I have a little bit more ♪ -The reviews in New York were not all that phenomenal.
And the Walter Kerr one -- he was the one everybody took particularly seriously then -- was not good.
I remember thinking when I went home opening night and got into bed at midnight, 'Oh, God. I'm gonna be out of work in a couple months.'
♪♪♪ -The lines were the longest lines I've ever seen in my life for tickets.
You stand outside when you're producing a show.
If there are lines, you go look at them.
Well, on 'Fiddler,' it was spectacular.
-Hal was handing out coffee to the lines that went around the block, but still there was nothing to prepare us for what was going to happen to this piece.
-Jerry Bock called me one day, before they went to Detroit.
Jerry said, 'Listen. Our refrigerator's on the fritz.
Can we get one?'
And I told him, 'Well, Jerry, um, we have to allocate certain amounts for certain things that are recurring, and a refrigerator's not on the list.'
The day after 'Fiddler' opened, I happened to walk from my apartment past the Imperial Theatre.
I ran to a phone, I said, 'Jerry, you know that refrigerator?
You can buy it.'
-Now, United Artists presents the joy... ♪♪♪ ...the color... ♪♪♪ ...and the spectacle.
'Fiddler on the Roof.'
-That there was going to be a Hollywood film version was determined almost immediately.
A lot of things had changed since 1964 when the show debuted.
Those seven years were packed with cultural changes that had a huge impact on both the making of the film and the way it was received.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Indistinct chanting ] -It was 1968-1969 school year.
The teacher's union went out on strike.
And in Brownsville, at a junior high, the drama teacher, Richard Piro, decided in the middle of this Black-Jewish conflagration to make 'Fiddler on the Roof' its spring musical.
-♪ I wouldn't have to work hard ♪ ♪ Ah ya deedle daddle ♪ ♪ Duh duh duh deedle daddle dum ♪ -Jerry Bock and Joe Stein and I heard about this school with a largely Black and Hispanic student body.
And they asked for permission to do the show, and we knew that their cast would be Black and Puerto Rican, and we gave them permission.
-♪ Who day and night must scramble for a living... ♪ -But some of the Jewish teachers in the school objected.
They felt that the kids were gonna make fun of Jews, that they were gonna play stereotypes, the kids were gonna do it without any respect.
You know, 'How can an African-American boy put a yarmulke on his head? This is a blasphemy.'
You know, that kind of thing.
-It was that kind of attitude.
'These Black children and Hispanic children should not be allowed to do it.'
And there were police all over the place. And we were appalled.
-There were bomb threats at the school, somebody had vandalized the scenery.
But the show went on, and it was great.
♪♪♪ -♪ It doesn't change a thing ♪ -And these kids really felt like they had made their own Anatevka and that they needed to protect it against these outside forces of bigotry.
And it was a really beautiful, triumphant moment for those kids.
-♪ It's nice to know ♪ ♪♪♪ -The tension in the Middle East develops into full-scale war.
-By '71 when the film came out, the idea of Jews and the imagery had changed.
The 1967 war in Israel changed the image of Israeli Jews.
This tough, brawny, victorious, fighting muscle Jew that now represented the kind of triumph of a Zionistic narrative.
♪♪♪ -The first time that I was asked to direct 'Fiddler on the Roof,' I mean, the first -- that moment -- I remember quite clearly.
I was standing in the office of Arthur Krim, president of United Artists.
I said, 'There's one enormous problem of me directing the film.
What would you say if I told you I was a goy?'
And there was absolute silence in the room.
J-E-W-I-S-O-N. Norman Jewison is a goy?'
Start mark three.
♪ What have we here, nothing much ♪ -But Arthur Krim was a brilliant man, recovered almost immediately, and he said, 'Why do you think we would ask you to make this film?'
There was tremendous pressure on me to choose Zero Mostel to play the role because he had created it on Broadway.
I wanted to cast a first-generation Russian Jew to play Tevye.
-Oh! I've got to tell you something marvelous.
There's a song in 'Fiddler on the Roof' called 'L'Chaim,' and it's a song which means 'to life.'
And when Topol first arrived, I was startled to find out that he didn't know any of the English lyrics at all, because he does the whole show in Hebrew.
You ready, Topol? -Yeah!
[ 'To Life' plays ] ♪♪♪ -[ Singing in Hebrew ] ♪ L'Chaim ♪ ♪ L'Chaim, l'chaim... ♪ -Chaim Topol was an Israeli actor who was appearing in the play in London.
And the moment I saw him, I realized that he was closer to the reality of the character.
-Paul Michael Glaser played Perchik in the film, and he saw how Topol brought a different perspective to the roll of Tevye.
-Topol played it from an Israeli point of view.
Any of the others that have played the role in the more Eastern European Jewish tradition, they'd go, 'Why?'
And the Israeli would go, 'Why?!' [ Laughs ] He'd an answer.
-Get off my land.
This is still my home, my land.
Get off my land.
-Topol had power, and he had sexuality.
And let me tell you something -- that works in the film because you got to believe that Tevye and Golde get together a lot to have all those children.
That chemistry -- that translated on screen.
That was exciting.
That was a sexual chemistry and a kind of a masculinity.
-♪ I wouldn't have to work hard ♪ ♪ Yaba diba diba, diba diba di... ♪ -Shall I tell you? -Yes.
-I'm afraid to tell you. -No! Please tell me!
-I had a terrible pain in my -- [ Laughs ] in my tooth.
I'm not joking, now.
The three days that we shot the song, I was in terrible, terrible pains.
-♪ Oh, what a happy mood she's in ♪ -The dentist didn't have an injection to numb it.
[ Imitates drilling ] And I was screaming, 'Woooohhh!'
-[ Shouting indistinctly ] -Okay?
-Are we clear on the street? -37, take 1.
-♪ Anatevka ♪ ♪ Intimate, obstinate Anatevka ♪ -I found it was quite possible for me to identify with Tevye.
I identify, I think, with certain aspects of the Jewish religion.
I find it a very personal religion.
[ Indistinct conversations ] -I think that he knows about Judaism today more than I do.
We have a joke about it that he's going to convert to Judaism and change his name to Norman Christianson.
-The film version, just by virtue of being a film, had enormous reach compared to the Broadway show.
You know, gazillions more people.
-In Tokyo, the film ran for three years.
And in Madrid, the film ran for three or four years.
In Barcelona, in places that you wouldn't imagine.
The fact is that the issues are very universal.
♪♪♪ -At first, when I knew that we were gonna do 'Fiddler,' I was like, 'We are Thai. How do we relate to that?'
But then I learned that it's a family thing, it's culture, and it's humanity and it's, like, love, and every parents love their children.
But sometimes when you turn out to be the person who they don't expect you to be -- So they're gonna need some time.
♪♪♪ -I think the reason why the show has responded well to Thai people is that they speak to them the same things that they are facing in their families and in their culture and their society, as well.
And that is really fascinating, that a published work of 58 years old is still resonating, and they're still speaking in the context of what is still happening today.
[ Applause ] -I want to thank you all for being here, all our friends and family.
And, you know, Lin, you're not expecting this, but I think you can help me toast all our friends and family.
So please come up and join me... -I was three months away from getting married, living in L.A., performing in 'In the Heights'' national tour stop.
I remember being on my treadmill working out.
You know, we were just wedding planning.
And 'L'Chaim' came up on shuffle on my iPod.
And I'm on my treadmill, listening to 'L'Chaim,' like you do.
And I remember thinking, 'This is, like, the only father-in-law, son-in-law song in the canon.'
-So here's to our prosperity!
[ Chord strikes ] -To our health and happiness.
[ Chord strikes ] -And most importantly... [ Chord strikes ] ♪ To life, to life, l'chaim ♪ ♪ L'Chaim, l'chaim, to life ♪ ♪ Here's to the father I've tried to be ♪ -♪ Here's to my bride to be ♪ -♪ Drink, l'chaim, to life ♪ ♪ To life, l'chaim ♪ ♪ L'Chaim, l'chaim, to life ♪ -♪ Life has a way of confusing us ♪ -♪ Blessing and bruising us ♪ -♪ Drink, l'chaim, to life! ♪ ♪ God would like us... ♪ In my wedding party, who would I cast?
[ Laughs ] I would cast my father-in-law as the Tevye, myself as butcher.
And so I began casting it as I'm running on the treadmill, and then, you know, I got off the treadmill, ran upstairs, and e-mailed everyone in the wedding party.
'We got to do this surprise.'
My favorite comment that we kept getting on YouTube was, 'What a wonderful Jewish couple.'
You know? [ Laughs ] I'm Puerto Rican.
My wife is Dominican and Austrian.
I don't think there is maybe two Jewish members of that whole wedding party.
-♪ To us and our good fortune! ♪ ♪ Be happy, be healthy, long life! ♪ ♪ And if our good fortune never comes ♪ ♪ Here's to whatever comes ♪ ♪ Drink, l'chaim ♪ ♪ To life! ♪ -To life! -[ Cheers and applause ] -What 'Fiddler' does so well is it captures those big moments in our lives, moments of transition, moments of tradition breaking, tradition renewing.
-Chava marries Natasha.
The exact same lines would resonate.
'A bird may love a fish, but where would they build their home together?
The world is changing, Papa.'
-♪ Tradition ♪ ♪ Marriages must be arranged by the Papa! ♪ -I thought a lot about the gay-rights movement.
I thought a lot about the courage that it takes to love who you love and how prevalent that is today and how I can feel that on a visceral level.
♪♪♪ Well, children... when shall we make the wedding?
-Oh! Thank you, Papa! -Reb Tevye, you won't be sorry!
-I 'won't be sorry.' I'm sorry already!
-When you are a, you know, young adult, you see yourself as one of the daughters who's trying to break out into the world in your own way.
As a parent, you see the show completely differently, and as an old person who's seen it all, you see it with that historical view.
-[ Singing in Dutch ] -I think one of the things that's unusual about 'Sunrise, Sunset' is that it's a parent's perspective and it's a parent's perspective.
And musicals tend to be written more about young people expressing their feelings, and to have that maternal and paternal concern and love for one's child and this idea of, like, where did the time go?
-♪ Sunrise, sunset ♪ ♪ Sunrise, sunset ♪ ♪ Swiftly flow the days ♪ ♪ Seedlings turn overnight... ♪ -He's at that really delicate juncture with his children where they're starting to break away and they're starting to go off into their own lives, and he's facing the biggest crunching problems of being a parent, being a husband.
They're really hitting.
-♪ How can I hope to make you understand ♪ ♪ Why I do what I do? ♪ ♪ Why I must travel to a distant land ♪ ♪ Far from the home I love... ♪ -He doesn't speak.
She sings the song there, and he is her with the song understand every single feeling that she has.
And he knows that he won't see her anymore.
-♪ Here in the home I love ♪ -And this is -- [Voice breaking] For me... For me, this is the most... uh... hurting, uh, place in the film, in the play.
-♪ Closing my heart to every hope but his ♪ ♪ Leaving the home I love ♪ ♪ There where my heart has settled long ago ♪ ♪ I must go ♪ ♪ I must go ♪ -And to sit there with Hodel in the station, that was probably the last scene that we shot.
And it stayed in my head and my heart for years, that scene.
♪♪♪ [ Train whistle blows ] -They have nothing but their tradition.
They have no -- That's the whole story.
They don't have money. They don't have options.
And they believe that if they follow this path that God has prescribed for them, that somehow everyone will be okay.
And so it's one's fear that -- their greatest fear is that something bad will happen to your child.
-It is a curse if your child leaves this umbrella of safety that your religion offers that child.
♪♪♪ -What is it?
She left home this morning with Fyedka.
-I looked everywhere for her.
I even went to the priest.
♪♪♪ He told me they were married.
-When we wrote 'Fiddler,' the hardest part to write was the part about the daughter who marries out of the faith.
I thought Joe Stein handled that beautifully, the fact that Tevye has to consider her dead.
-Chavaleh! -Chava is dead to us!
We'll forget her.
Go home, Golde.
-I think Chava doesn't even fully understand what she's done.
She sees her romance as similar to her sisters.
Okay, Tzeitel broke the mold, and she married this Jewish boy who's part of the community, and that's okay.
And Hodel fell in love with this Bundist, and she took it a little further, but he's Jewish, and I don't really see how this is any different.
I think it's an act of dreamy romance like in all the books she reads.
She doesn't understand that the door will close and will never be opened again.
If she married Fyedka, she had to be baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church.
It's over. It's over.
She closed a door she didn't know locked from the other side.
-No, Chava. -♪ Tradition ♪ -No!
-♪ Tradition ♪ -Papa!
-Papa! -♪ Tradition ♪ -Nooooooooooooooo!
-You can kind of feel the audience, like, on the edge of their seats saying, 'Oh, but you can.
But you can go that far. You can bend a little bit more.
You can bend just a small amount.'
-Tevye's instinct is, 'This is my daughter, and Russians are human beings and Jews are human beings, and I should accept her.'
But then he has to say, 'No, no, no,' and turn his back on her because he is part of this... earthbound world.
It's always been approached as how hard it is to say no to your daughter, but it's more than that.
It's -- It's all of his instincts as a human being.
He never speaks to God again.
♪♪♪ -♪ Little bird, little Chavaleh ♪ ♪ I don't understand what's happening today ♪ ♪ Everything is all a blur ♪ ♪ All I can see is the happy child ♪ ♪ The sweet little bird you were ♪ ♪ Chavaleh, Chavaleh ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Little bird ♪ ♪ Little Chavaleh ♪ ♪ You were always such a pretty little thing ♪ ♪ Everybody's favorite child ♪ ♪ Gentle and kind and affectionate ♪ ♪ What a sweet little bird you were ♪ ♪ Chavaleh, Chavaleh ♪ ♪♪♪ -There's something special about his relationship with Chava.
And knowing that, that's what hurts the most.
Because she was the closest.
He was so sure that that would never happen, not with her.
-The choices were always based on the love between Fyedka and Chava.
And the trouble they invited on themselves, the young couple, was very brave.
And, I mean, if you just fast-forward a bit to the Holocaust, you know that it didn't save anybody to be married to a Gentile.
That saved no one.
-We came to say goodbye.
We're also leaving this place.
We're going to Krakow.
Mama... -Come, Chava.
-Tevye's response -- 'She's dead to us.'
It will be a burden for life.
Except for that tiny little glimmer you see as they emigrate to America, and Tevye speaks to her through Tzeitel.
-Goodbye, Chava, Fyedka!
-And God be with you.
-And God be with you!
-We shall write you in America if you'd like.
-We will be staying with Uncle Avram!
-It's not just that Chava is marrying outside the faith, which is a very... American 20th-century way of thinking of it.
She's an apostate in Sholem Aleichem's time.
She's leaving the community.
She's turning her back on everything.
It's not just a matter of faith, of what one believes.
It's a whole way of life that she is exiting from.
This is the blow to Tevye that I think is different from the anxiety that Jewish Americans had about interfaith marriages in 1964 or that still have today.
-♪ To life! ♪ -What I loved about this play is you're going to a musical and you're getting a lot more than a musical.
It's a much happier version of a looming pogrom.
You know, it's a musical, so the nostalgia is built in.
It's a happy version of a dark history, which is also what drives it, is it's a very fun play, but there's so many dark -- I mean, there's a, like, looming disaster.
-A pogrom? Here? -No. No, no, no.
It's just a little unofficial demonstration.
-How little? -It's not too serious.
-You had to live under the fear of the pogroms.
When the guy comes in and he said, 'There's nothing personal.
I really like you very, very much, but we have to do a little bit to show -- you know, to, you know, kick you a little bit, to hit you a little bit, to make little problems.'
It is -- There's nothing more horrible than that.
-The first Russian revolution, the Russian revolution of 1905 was a failure.
It didn't overthrow the czarist regime.
And the czarist regime looked for a bloody counterresponse to these revolutionaries, and, as is not surprising, they found the Jews as one of the prime scapegoats, and that led to an extremely bloody series of anti-Jewish events and anti-Jewish violence.
-The carpet was pulled out from underneath all of Judaism on the political front, on the religious front, on the very land on which they lived, like being forced to move and run and shift.
And then these extraordinarily violent pogroms all the time.
People could see the writing on the wall, which doesn't happen often in history.
What we talk about the Holocaust is, you know, people just not seeing what was coming because it's too unbelievable.
But some Jews understood to get on a boat and get out.
♪♪♪ -I think for Jerry Robbins, when he was working on 'Fiddler,' an analogy was the Klan during the civil Rights Movement... ♪♪♪ ...and other racist forces in the South.
♪♪♪ That was the kind of violence that had, for Jerry Robbins, the same kind of racial animus at its core.
In the early rehearsals for 'Fiddler,' Robbins had actors improvising scenes of African-American exclusion.
And the parallel for him was, you know, very live in that moment of 1964.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ All shouting ] The Holocaust looms over 'Fiddler on the Roof.'
You're sitting there in an audience in 1964 or '74, '84, or today, and you just know that.
-One night, I was watching the show, and there was a couple sitting opposite me.
Looking at them, you thought, 'That couple must have been in a concentration camp.'
They looked Jewish and skinny and old, and they were marked with suffering.
And during the pogrom, I worried about them because they both began to go -- [ Gasping ] They started to breathe heavily, and they were apparently reliving some experience they lived in Europe, and they were reliving it through what they were seeing on stage, and that was frightening.
-No! Please! -In moments of great upheaval, 'Fiddler' is always going to seem relevant because the world is changing faster than we can understand.
And we look to our traditions to guide us, and sometimes they fail us.
You know, sometimes they don't prepare us for the world that's happening around us, you know?
In Anatevka, things have been done the same way for thousands of years, but what happens when the outside world is saying you can't live here anymore?
-I have an order here!
It says that you must sell your homes and be out in three days!
-Three days?! -[ Chatter ] -When I think about the ending of 'Fiddler,' there's an interesting point about the circle, which is the breaking of the circle, because now they've become a line.
-♪ After all, what have we got here? ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ A little bit of this ♪ ♪ A little bit of that ♪ ♪ A pot ♪ -♪ A pan ♪ -♪ A broom ♪ -♪ A hat ♪ -Someone should have set a match to this place years ago.
-A bench. -A tree.
-So, what's a stove? -Or a house?
-People who pass through Anatevka don't even know they've been here.
-A stick of wood.
-A piece of cloth.
-♪ What do we leave? ♪ ♪ Nothing much ♪ ♪ Only Anatevka ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Anatevka, Anatevka ♪ ♪ Underfed, overworked Anatevka ♪ ♪ Where else could Sabbath... ♪ -Every production of 'Fiddler' I've seen from the first one on, it's tragic that every time it has gotten to the last scene, the exodus, there has been something in the news which relates to that.
-A refugee's different than an immigrant.
A refugee means you've been forced out.
You've had to leave.
You can't stay where your home is, even if you wanted to.
And that's what you experience in 'Fiddler.'
-'Fiddler' is really not just about violence that is visited on a single person but being visited on an entire culture.
Really, it's about what we now call ethnic cleansing in the end.
-People can go on about tradition, and I think they all want to feel the connection of that, but the real secret to this show is how they come to cope with loss -- losing their community, losing their children, and moving forward.
And art is very powerful as it helps us cope with loss and change.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -There's so many aspects to play.
That's what makes it rich.
That's why it's lasted 50 years.
Because it's complex. It's not a melodrama.
Because it's human.
And it's incredible to me that it's a musical.
-♪ To us and our good fortune ♪ ♪ Be happy, be healthy, long life ♪ -♪ And if our good fortune never comes ♪ ♪ Here's to whatever comes ♪ ♪ Drink l'chaim, to life! ♪ -The parents are using the opportunity of 'Fiddler' to pass on the history.
♪♪♪ -I can't believe I was in it.
Maybe I bribed my way into getting on the original cast album.
♪♪♪ -On a gut level, we all are connected to this, and I don't think there's any other show that has done that for more people.
♪♪♪ -You listen to it once or twice, and you're singing the songs for the rest of your life, whether you like it or not.
-As long as humankind exists and continues to have struggles, 'Fiddler on the Roof' will be there.
-♪ To life ♪ -♪ Who day and night must scramble for a living ♪ ♪ Feed the wife and children, say his daily prayers ♪ ♪ And who has the right as master of the house ♪ ♪ To have the final word at home? ♪ ♪ The papa, the papas ♪ ♪ Tradition ♪ ♪♪♪ -♪ Who must know the way to make a proper home ♪ -To order 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles' on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
-♪ So Papa's free to read the holy book ♪ ♪ The mama, the mama ♪ ♪ Tradition ♪ -To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit PBS.org/greatperformances.
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-♪ At three, I started Hebrew school ♪ ♪ At ten, I learned a trade ♪ ♪ I hear they've picked a bride for me ♪ ♪ I hope she's pretty ♪ ♪ The sons, the sons ♪ ♪ Tradition ♪ ♪ The sons, the sons ♪ ♪ Tradition ♪ ♪♪♪ -♪ And who does... ♪ ♪♪♪