Show History



Fiddler on the Roof, with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and a book by Joseph Stein, is based on the characters from an anthology of tales entitled Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman) by Sholem Aleichem.  The musical tends to follow the chronology of the stories, ending with the residents of Anatevka being forced to leave their village.  In choosing the title for their piece, the creative team looked to Chagall's painting, The Fiddler, a metaphor for survival through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance.

Bock, Harnick and Stein had all previously worked together on the musical, The Body Beautiful, and came up with the idea of adapting Aleichem's stories to stage.  They selected three unconnected Tevye monologues, in which he relates the romantic adventures of his young daughters.  Their goal was to use these isolated tales as the basis for a play about the whole community, to tell a larger story that has a dramatic progression from beginning to end, while retaining the rich feeling and tone of the original material.  In its early stages, Stein faced the difficulty of essentially having to write text for the new stories while Bock and Harnick wrote 19 songs, eventually settling on a handful for the show.


After tryouts in Detroit in July and August of 1964, Fiddler on the Roof premiered at Broadway's Imperial Theatre on September 22, 1964.  Starring Zero Mostel and featuring direction and choreographer from Broadway icon, Jerome Robbins, the production ran for 3,242 productions and survived two different transfers, finishing its run at The Broadway Theatre. The original West End production opened on December 28, 1976, with Chaim Topol in its lead role, playing for over 2,000 performances.

With such long-running success on both sides of the pond, it was only natural that a number of major revivals would occur.  Fiddler on the Roof has had five Broadway revivals in 1976 (Winter Garden Theatre), 1981 (Lincoln Center's New York State Theater), 1990 (George Gershwin Theatre), 2004 (Minskoff Theatre) and 2015 (Broadway Theatre).  London revivals occurred in 1983 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, 1994 at the London Palladium and 2007 at the Savoy Theatre.  In addition, the musical has seen four UK tours and one major U.S. tour, titled Topol in Fiddler on the Roof: The Farewell Tour.

Fiddler on the Roof has also been produced in a handful of international productions.  Israeli impresario, Giora Godik, staged a Hebrew language version and soon followed that up with a Yiddish version of the same script.  The musical has hit the stage in countries like Spain, France and Japan.

Cultural Influence

  • The original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof was the first to surpass 3,000 performances in a single run.