Based on the short story “Tevye and his Daughters” by Sholom Aleichem, Fiddler on the Roof was one of the first musicals in history to defy Broadway’s conventional rules of commercial success. The musical dealt with serious moral issues such as persecution, poverty and the struggle to uphold religious beliefs in the midst of uncertainty and imbalance. Initially criticized for its “limited appeal,” Fiddler’s themes resonated with audiences, becoming the first show in Broadway history to surpass 3,000 performances and at that year’s Tony Awards, won nine awards including Best Musical, Best Director and Best Actor. Set in 1905 in the small Russian town of Anatevka, Fiddler on the Roof revolves around the dairyman Tevye and his attempts to uphold his Jewish and family’s traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. The conflict between tradition and change come to a climax when his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, begs him to let her marry a poor tailor rather than the man he has picked out for her. Tevye must choose between his daughter’s happiness and those traditions which stave off the outside world. Fiddler on the Roof opened on September 22, 1964 and ran for 3,242 performances at The Imperial Theatre. It remains Broadway’s fifteenth longest-running show in history, spawning four Broadway revivals and a successful 1971 film adaptation. An international success, Fiddler opened the door for other shows to deal with serious issues.
Portland Center Stage will tackle this historic musical this fall with performances running from Sept.14 through Oct. 27.