Fifty years ago, in 1964, the curtain rose on "Fiddler on the Roof" — the first large-scale Broadway musical based on a Jewish-Yiddish classic. The plot takes place in a Jewish town in Russia and is based on the stories of Tevya the Dairyman written by the greatest Yiddish humorist, Shalom Aleichem. The first of these short stories was published 120 years ago. The musical was written by Joseph Stein (book), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Jerry Bock (music). The director-choreographer was Jerome Robbins, and in the lead role — Zero Mostel.
Since the premiere in New York, "Fiddler on the Roof" has been performed tens of thousands of times all over the world. The first performance to take place in another country and in another language was in Israel, in Hebrew, in 1965. Yossef "Bombe" Tzur, Shmuel Rodensky and Chaim Topol were the first to portray the character of Tevya in Hebrew. Since then the show has been translated and performed in more than 20 languages, from Yiddish to Japanese, and many millions have seen and continue to see it with great excitement to this day. This year the Hebrew version is being staged for a fourth time in Tel-Aviv, with Natan Datner currently playing the lead role.
The American musical film that was produced based on the show starring Chaim Topol has been seen by more than one billion (!) viewers and continues to be screened again and again in movie theaters and on television worldwide.
Chaim Topol also played Tevya on stage in English in London, U.S.A., Japan and Australia.
Thus, thanks to the heartwarming magic of the musical stage show and film based on these wonderful stories filled with the humor, sadness and human warmth of literary genius Shalom Aleichem, over the past 50 years the world has come to know the special way of life in the Jewish world and Jewish towns which no longer exist.
Translator of "Fiddler on the Roof" to Hebrew