Today, we continue BroadwayWorld’s newest feature column with a special tribute to one of the most cherished and beloved musicals ever written in honor of its 50th birthday, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.
THEATRICAL THROWBACK THURSDAY: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Turns 50Tradition
Originally produced on Broadway in 1964, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, forever remaining one of the most oft-revived and constantly celebrated musicals of the Golden Age. Featuring a score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, with a book by Joseph Stein, the musical was based on the short story collection TEVYE AND HIS DAUGHTERS by Sholem Aleichem. The musical was first produced on Broadway by the formidable showman Harold Prince, then still near the start of what would be an incomparable career in the theatre, also featuring a production directed by iconic Golden Age director and choreographer Jerome Robbins. The original production of the show garnered 10 Tony Award nominations, taking home 9, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book and Best Direction. A classic in its own time and certainly one today, the charms and insinuating features of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF are copious.
Showcasing a commanding central role seemingly tailor-made for comedically-inclined actor-singers, Tevye, the original star of the show was none other than Golden Age icon Zero Mostel, with subsequent famous essayers of the part including Herschel Bernardi – who led the first Broadway revival in 1976 – and Topol – who headlined the 1971 feature film adaptation, directed by Norman Jewison. Modern era Tevyes have included Alfred Molina in the recent 2004 David Leveaux-directed Broadway revival, as well as his replacement, multi-award-winning playwright, performer and activist Harvey Fierstein.
Besides Tevye, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF also boasts memorable musical moments for many of the female characters, as well – especially the timeless trio afforded to Tevye’s daughters byway of instant earworm “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”.
Today’s stupendous vintage clip showcases a particularly spectacular trio of up-and-coming ladies leading the jaunty tune on the 1968 Tony Awards in celebration of the show’s hit status – highlighted by the appearance of not only Tanya Everett and Mimi Turque, but also soon-to-be superstar Bette Midler.
Additionally, the tradition of rising stars in the roles of Tevye’s daughters continued on into the 21st century, given that SPRING AWAKENING star and GLEE headliner Lea Michele stepped into the role of Sprintze in the 2004 revival, as well.
View the 1968 Tony Awards performance of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” featuring Bette Midler and more below:
So, what precisely is it about FIDDLER ON THE ROOF that makes it an enduring classic nearly as smart, fresh and touching as it was when it first premiered 50 years ago? Is it the vast collection of unforgettable songs? The delectable performance showcases? One thing is clear, now is a perfect time to celebrate one of the greatest musicals ever written – and, of course, tradition, too. L’chaim!