Fiddler on the Roof

Year: 1971

Studio: Mirisch Production Company

Screenplay: Joseph Stein
(based on stories by Sholem Aleichem)

Director: Norman Jewison

Choreographer: Tom Abbott
(Adapted from original choreography by Jerome Robbins)


Brief Synopsis:

"Fiddler on the Roof" is a story about the life of the Jewish citizens of a small town in Russia in the late 1880s and how they try to hold onto their traditions in a changing world. This struggle for tradition versus the modern world is told through the story of Tevye and his three oldest daughters who each break with the traditions of their community and family. The stories unfold against the backdrop of Czarist Russia and an increasingly violent, anti-Semitic world.

Detailed Synopsis:

Anatekva is a small town in 19th century Czarist Russia. The Jewish community of Anatekva is a tight-knit, traditionally religious community. Tevye (Topol), the community's milkman, is a poor man with five daughters, three of whom are of marrying age. Tevye's wife, Golde, with the help of Yente, the matchmaker, is trying to find a husband for her oldest daughter, Tzeitel. After Tzeitel, she will try to find matches for Hodel and Chava.

Tzeitel is in love with Motel, the community's tailor. They have been friends since they were children and they want to marry but Motel is afraid to ask Tevye for Tzeitel's hand in marriage. In the meantime, Yente has found a match for Tzeitel - Lazar Wolf, the community's butcher. Lazar is rich but much older than Tzeitel and not attractive, but Golde is delighted with the match. She convinces Tevye to speak with Lazar and the two men agree to the match. However, the next day, Tzeitel and Motel tell Tevye that they want to marry and he reluctantly agrees, giving up some of his traditions.

Perchik, a young Jewish man with radical, revolutionary ideas, comes to Anatekva and Tevye hires him as a teacher for his three youngest daughters. Hodel and Perchik argue at first over his radical ideas, but, in time, he wins her over and they fall in love.

At Tzeitel and Motel's wedding, the Russian army comes and disrupts the festivities with what the Russian commandant calls a "small demonstration." They destroy everything in the wedding hall and set fire to buildings in the community. The Jewish residents of Anatekva experience the first real demonstration of the shakiness of their existence in the small town and in Russia.

Hodel and Perchik decide to become engaged and they tell Tevye that they want his blessing. Again, he reluctantly agrees, and more of his traditions drop away. Perchik leaves for Moscow to join other revolutionaries and he is arrested and sent to Siberia. Hodel decides to join him and she reassures Tevye that they will have a proper Jewish wedding.

Chava, Tevye's middle and, most likely, favorite daughter becomes friends with a young Russian, Fyedka. Eventually, they fall in love and tell Tevye they want to marry. Marriage to a non-Jew is too much of a break from tradition for Tevye and he demands that Chava never see Fyedka again. When Chava elopes with Fyedka, Tevye cannot forgive her and he cuts her off from the family.

The Czar passes an edict that all of Anatekva's Jews must leave. The people pack up their belongings, leave their homes and travel to far-off places, some to other parts of Russia or Europe, some to Palestine and some, like Tevye's family, to America.