On this day: Fiddler on the Roof opens on Broadway

September 22 1934: A tradition begins

By Jennifer Lipman, September 22, 2010
The story of Tevye the milkman, his meddling wife and five willful daughters needs little introduction.

With songs including If I were a rich man and Matchmaker, Matchmaker, it has become one of most popular shows in history and been revived across the world.

Set against the backdrop of Tsarist Russia and the pogroms, the show had its origins in the Shalom Aleichem story Tevye and his daughters, and took its title from Marc Chagall’s painting The Fiddler.

The tale of family life in Anatevka became the first musical in Broadway history to run for more than 3,000 performances and won nine Tony awards.

Fiddler on the Roof opened in London’s West End in February 1967. The film, starring Israeli actor Chaim Topol as Tevye, was made in 1971.

Alfred Molina, Henry Goodman and Harvey Fierstein are also among the actors who have also taken on the role, while better Midler spent three years playing eldest daughter Tzeitel.

What the JC said: Tevye, the dairyman of many misfortunes and Sholem Aleichem’s most memorable character, is the rage of Broadway…Zero Mostel in the role of Tevye, has been unanimously praised by the critics and is a “smash hit” with the theatergoers. Within a day of the opening the Imperial Theatre had to open three box-office windows. Even so, it took about three hours of standing in a queue to get tickets.

See more from the JC archives here

Last updated: 9:16am, September 22 2010