Following a long ‘Tradition’ ... Eric Issacson as Tevye in the LOGON production of Fiddler on the Roof

So, you say you’ve already seen Fiddler on the Roof? Quite probable, as the musical, this year celebrating 50 years since it was first produced on Broadway, has been seen by people all over the world.

Now you’ll have another chance. Just in time for the half-century anniversary of that global phenomenon, Israel's veteran English speaking musical theater company, The Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON), will be staging the musical drama in February and March 2015 throughout the country, including Kfar Saba, Netanya, Modiin and Rehovot.

The longest-running show in history, Fiddler’s original 1964 production starred the great comic actor, Zero Mostel, and gave the world such stunning songs as “Tradition,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”

In the half-century since its premiere, Fiddler has had an astonishing global impact. Translated into scores of languages, there’s probably not a day Fiddler is not performed somewhere in the world – from Japan (where the producer asked how Americans could understand a story that is “so Japanese”) to Panama (Un Violinista sobre el Tejado). The Academy Award-winning 1971 film version starring Haim Topol is still shown on TV quite frequently in Israel.

I realize of course it’s no shame to be poor, but it’s no great honor either.” Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof

When the stage show premiered in Israel, it was done first in Yiddish. Translated into Hebrew, where the song “If I Were a Rich Man” was rendered as “If I were a Rothschild”, it was an instant success. Since then it’s been performed in Israel countless numbers of times in many languages by both professional and amateur groups, most recently at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater.

 Fiddler on the Roof is based upon Tevya and his Daughters, a series of short stories written in Yiddish in the late 19th century by Sholem Aleichem, which chronicles his relationship with his seven daughters who are rebelling against tradition. In the theatrical adaptation the creators gave Tevye five daughters instead, focusing only on the oldest three. The story of Sprintze, for example, who ultimately drowns herself when she cannot marry the man she loves, was left out.

The impoverished Tevye tries to maintain his family and religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. He must cope with his strong-willed daughters who want to choose their own husbands, and with the Tsar’s edict to evict the Jews from their village.

Chava: “The world is changing Papa.”

Tevye: “No. Some things do not change for us. Some things will never change.”

How did a singing milkman from a Czarist Russian shtetl become a Broadway star, a hero of postwar American culture and have enduring international popularity? How was a Yiddish story about Jewish life in a particular time and place reborn as a universal blockbuster?

“You may ask how did this tradition start, I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition...” Tevye in Fiddler

According to Alisa Solomon, author of Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof , Tevye came to be seen not as an emblem of the backward old country, but as a prototypical immigrant struggling with changing times and mores. “The show’s themes are universal: the generation gap, the sense of loss, the forces of change,” Solomon explains. “It operates successfully both on the particular and the universal tracks. It very specifically speaks to the children and grandchildren of Jewish immigrants, at the same time there’s nothing that isn’t clear to a non-Jewish audience.”

Yet Fiddler is a very Jewish show, part of Jewish culture and beliefs. So, if you’ve seen it once or twice in the last 50 years, you may want to take your children and grandchildren this time. Not just because it’s “a tradition” but because it’s a really good show.

LOGON, which draws participants from the south of the country, was founded in 1981, originally to perform Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. It’s the only English language theater group performing throughout the country and whose ticket sales support local charitable organizations like ESRA. LOGON first performed Fiddler on the Roof in 1996 in its first break from the repertoire of Gilbert & Sullivan.

Information about performances and dates at: www.negevlightopera.com 

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Comments

Esther Bloch
2015-03-08
What a pity there aren't more performances in Jerusalem!

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About the author

Patricia (Patti) Golan

Patricia (Patti) Golan is a veteran journalist who has lived in Israel since 1969. Among other positions, she was the Middle East correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, Radio and Voice of...
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