FIDDLER ON THE
Show’s Golden Anniversary
Is A Miracle Of Miracles
first discovered the shtetl when he was six years old. He was
born on the Lower East Side, home of immigrants from Eastern
Europe. His father took him to Poland to see where his
Rabinowitz family came from.
When he won Tony Awards
for directing and choreographing Fiddler on the Roof, he
believed he did such a great job that the show would last 25
Here it is 50 years later
and the musical is still being produced somewhere in the world.
Of course that calls for celebration. Many people who performed
as Anatevka shtetl dwellers on stage or screen were invited to
Manhattan’s Town Hall in June to commemorate the Golden
Anniversary of that global phenomenon, ingrained in the American
In a historic reunion, 80
veterans from Fiddler on the Roof productions led us down
Memory Lane by recreating several of those enduring scenes and
songs. They "raised the roof" in a concert to benefit the
National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene, based in New York.
Many in the sold-out
audience of 1500 sang along with Chaim Topol, Mike Burstyn,
Joanna Borts, Neva Small, Austin Pendleton and
Adrienne Barbeau such iconic tunes as "Sunrise, Sunset" and
"Matchmaker," under the musical direction of Zalmen Mlotek.
That amazing fiddler, Joshua Bell, stepped up to strum
tunes from of the Jerry Bock score.
Even Chita Rivera
celebrated. Although not a "Fiddler" alumna, she was picked to
present a Folksbiene Lifetime Achievement Award to the brilliant
Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the songs. It was also a
birthday gift as he was 90 on April 30.
Film critic Jeffrey
Lyons, proud to count Harnick as his cousin, reported that
when the show played Scandinavia, including Finland, Joseph
Stein, who wrote the book, asked Harnick, "Why do we
schedule openings in countries like these in the dead of winter?
It’s freezing!" Harnick said not to worry. The contracts
guaranteed the theaters a share of the coat check concession.
Zadora, couldn’t believe it’s been 50 years since she made
her Broadway debut as Tevye’s youngest daughter Bielke,
"especially as my official bio states I’m 43." (She turned 60
She said she spent "two
wonderful" years on Broadway. For a youngster from Hoboken,
coming from a pretty dysfunctional family, it was an escape and
a safe haven.
As a little girl not
living the normal life of a 10-year-old, Pia found that the
Imperial Theatre was not just her home, it was also her school.
The stagehands built her a desk so she could study. They even
helped out with her homework. "I’m pleased to say I got all A’s
in fifth grade."
Broadway producer Hal
Prince would send champagne to all the cast for Christmas.
Given that Pia was a minor, he sent her champagne bubble bath.
"It was the worst champagne I’ve ever drank," she said.
She said that Zero
Mostel, the original Tevye, used to call her "my little
shiksa." He taught her three words in Yiddish that would get you
through life: "mazel tov, oy vey, and shmuck."
Chaim Topol, star of
the film version, announced good news: The Israel post office is
going to issue three stamps for the film’s 50th
Israeli Consul General
Ido Aharoni said when Fiddler premiered in Israel, it
was done in Yiddish, not the national language Hebrew. That was
natural, he said, as Yiddish was the language of the early
immigrants. "You needed that type of humor to survive as a
Mark Mlotek was apologetic for the absence of Bel Kaufman
at the celebration. She’s a big draw for many in the
audience of a certain age. She’s the author of Up the Down
Staircase and, more relevant, the granddaughter of Sholom
Aleichem, who wrote the 1894 story of Tevye and His
Daughters, the source material for Fiddler. We can
forgive her. After all, she is 103 years old — three years older
than the Folksbiene. (She died July 24.)
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld talked about all the love (besides
tradition) that pervaded the shtetl. Like the time Sara went to
the rebbe and lamented that both Yossele and Yankele want to
marry her. "Who shall be the lucky one?" she gushed. The rebbe
looked at her for a moment, narrowed his eyes, and said, "My
child, Yossel will marry you. Yankel will be the lucky one."