Commentary Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite musicals. Being Jewish with ancestors from Russia and eastern Europe, I can relate to it quite well. Fiddler on the Roof gives me a good feeling for the difficulties many of my ancestors faced growing up in Russia and being kicked out, eventually making their way to America. The movie also gives me a deeper appreciation for my heritage. Although I'm not really religious, at least in the traditional sense, I can see how traditional Judaism served poor Jews in eastern Europe a century ago, who were struggling to survive and deal with a great deal of prejudice. I can also see how their traditional views became challenged by changing times and circumstances.
Plot Summary Fiddler on the Roof takes place in the small fictional village of Anatevka in Russia in 1905, on the eve of the Russian Revolution. The village is occupied by a handfull of Jews, who maintain their balance by one word, "Tradition!" The main character is Tevye (Topol), a milkman with wife Golda (Norma Crane) and five daughters. Three of his daughters end up getting married, and each of their marriages challenge his traditional beliefs, but he ultimately gives in each time. Tevye and the rest of the Jews in the village also have to contend with the highly anti-semetic Russian government run by the Tsar as well as the changing views brought on by the Russian Revolution. Eventually the Jews are forcefully evacuated from Anatevka, whence they part for various destinations, many moving to America to start a new life.
Music Fiddler on the Roof contains some wonderful songs, including the following:
"Matchmaker, Matchmaker" (Tevye's daughters)
"If I Were a Rich Man" (Tevye)
"To Life" (Tevye, Lazer Wolf, and Company)
"Miracle of Miracles" (Motel)
"Sunrise, Sunset" (Tevye, Golde, Perchik, Hodel, and Company)
Cultural Significance The music from Fiddler on the Roof has been highly influential. "Sunrise, Sunset" is a popular song at weddings, and it usually makes the bride's parents cry. "If I Were a Rich Man" is another very popular song from the movie (as well as the play on which it is based). In fact, the 1993 reggae dance hit "Rich Girl" by Luchie Lou and Michie One features the tune and many of the lyrics from this song, with "girl" in place of "man".
Here's a clip of "Tradition", the opening song.
Here's a clip of "Matchmaker, Matchmaker".
Here's a clip of Tevye singing "If I Were a Rich Man"
Here's a clip of "To Life".
Here's a clip of the famous bottle dance performed at Motel and Tseitel's wedding.