Story based on Sholem Aleichim stories
Excerpts of the musical numbers from Fiddler on the Roof are shown below.
What does it mean, this fiddler on the roof,
A solitary violinist perches precariously on a roof top as he plays the opening solo. The fiddler serves as a metaphor for Tevye's attempts to preserve his family's traditions in the face of a changing world and for the religious Jews of Anatevka to maintain their equilibrium in Czarist Russia in the early 1900s.
Feed a wife and children, Say his daily prayers;
And who has the right as master of his house,
To have the final word at home the pop-pa
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
For Poppa make him a scholar,
For momma, make him rich as a king;
For me, well I wouldn't holler if he were as handsome as anything
Tradition dictates that the father picks a husband for his daughter. However, Tevye's daughters have other thoughts. Tzeitel breaks with tradition when she selects her own husband - she has fallen in love with Motel, a poor tailor. But her father has already promised her to an older rich man, the butcher Lazar Wolf.
Lord, who made the lion and the lamb,
Although he does not have much in the way of worldly goods, Tevye, the impoverished Jewish Milkman, is rich in family. He has five daughters. During one of his frequent conversations with God he ponders being a rich man.
May the Lord protect and defend you,
Tevye and Lazar Wolf sing a boisterous tribute to the human spirit To Life, To Life, L'chai-im which attracts the attention of the Russian soldiers drinking nearby. They break down an obvious barrier and even begin to dance with the Jews. The dances show both the joy and the poignancy of the Jewish culture of the time.
Wonder of wonders, Miracle of miracles
The shy tailor Motel pleads with Tevye for permission to marry Tzeitel. The young couple rejoice when Tevye gives his blessing - despite already having promised her to the butcher Lazar Wolf.
Tevye concocts a story about a dream to make his wife Golde believe that the arranged marriage of their daughter Tzeitel is doomed and they must break off Tzeitel's engagement to the Butcher, Lazor Wolf. (All this so Tzeitel can marry the tailor Motel Kamzoil whom she loves.)
In the dream scene the ghosts of Grandma Tzeitel and Fruma-Sarah (Lazar Wolf's deceased wife) denounce the proposed marriage of Tzeitel to the butcher Lazar Wolf.
When did he grow to be so tall?
I don't remember growing older
When did they?
Sunrise, Sunset, Swiftly flow the days
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
Tzeitel and Motel's wedding celebration includes the bottle dance village men place bottles on their hats and perform acrobatic dance moves while never tipping over the jugs. The wedding festivities end abruptly when Russian authorities stage a 'pogrom' destroying the homes and property of the Jewish families and announcing an edict that the Jews must leave Anatevka.
Perchik, the radical student from Kiev with liberal ideas, falls in love with Hodel, Tevye's 2nd daughter. He teaches her to dance - this is a scandalous break with traditon which requires men and women to keep their distance in public places. Without asking permission they get engaged. Tevye bends to his daughter's happiness and gives Hodel and Perchik his blessing to marry on their love alone. Perchik is arrested for demonstrating in Kiev and is sent to a prison in Siberia.
In a very sweet song Tevye reflects on this new-fangled emotion called love. He askes Golde, his wife of 25 years, Do you Love me?
Perchik has been arrested and exiled to Siberia. Wild rumors and gossip circulate in Anatevka about Tevya and his daughters.
Hodel is leaving Anatevka to join Perchik in Siberia where he has been imprisoned. She explains her love for Perchik and the family she is leaving behind. The song captures Hodel's hopes and excitement of a new life of her choice, while her father Tevye can only respond with heartache at the difficulties she will face in the future. The music reflects the sadness and pain of parting from loved ones.
Where else could Sabbath be so sweet?
Anatevka, Anatevka, intimate, obstinate Anatevka
Where I know everyone I meet
Soon I'll be a stranger in a strange new place
Searching for an old familiar face
Anatevka, dear little village, little town of mine.
The story ends as it began with the music of the solitary Fiddler (fallen from his roof perch) symbolic of Anatevka's precarious existence under Czarist Russia.
Tom Pedas, The Celebration Singers and Children's Chorus