Favorite Musicals: Fiddler on the Roof

Jaz on Fiddler on the Roof

There are some films that resonate in a strong and personal way. For me, Fiddler on the Roof is one of them. Tevye, the main character, reminds me of my father: the way his smile crinkles up at the corners, his respect for traditional values, his love for people and his unwavering devotion to God. I myself identify with the characters in some ways; I grew up as one of five children in a noisy household outnumbered by women. We’d all squeeze onto the worn grey sofa in the living room and laugh as Tevye told his wife Golde the “dream,” tear up when the characters sang “Sunrise, Sunset,” and sing along at the top of our voices with “If I Were a Rich Man.”

Tevye is a poor (as can be guessed by the previous song title) Jewish man living in pre-revolutionary Russia. A milkman, he’s experienced the trials of poverty and wants something better for his five daughters. So when the eldest refuses a marriage proposal from the town’s wealthy butcher, telling Tevye she’s in love with a poor, spineless tailor, he’s forced to view the situation with a different perspective. Should he make her marry the matchmaker’s choice and ensure his daughter’s financial comfort, or let her choose the man she loves? Throughout the film, his traditional conceptions of life are challenged as his daughters fall in love, and again as political and social unrest develop throughout the country.

Unlike many musicals, Fiddler on the Roof contains a thought-provoking plot in addition to its entertaining and artfully crafted musical numbers.

Liz on Fiddler on the Roof

 I have a lot of memories associated with Fiddler on the Roof. To get it out of the way, I’ll start with the most embarrassing one. When I was young, my parents rented the movie, and they and my younger sister began to watch it. I opted to read a book. After a while, my father came to my room and ordered me to go watch the movie. That irked me. In protest, I sat just inside the living room doorway with my eyes closed and my ears covered for the rest of the first half of the movie (they broke it into two viewings). I’m afraid I have a stubborn streak. I don’t remember when, but I did later watch the beginning of the movie.

A surprising memory associated with Fiddler on the Roof is the use of the song “Tradition” in a Baptist Campus Ministries message and the fact that I remember it after all this time. I was familiar with the movie, and since the title of the song itself was informative, it was easy to remember that the message was about the importance of tradition and how it can act as an anchor when your faith seems lost or at least on rough seas.

Aside from great music, the movie has a good story. It’s both amusing and serious. Being a romantic at heart, my comments mainly revolve around the three oldster daughters: I loved how the oldest daughter fell in love with her childhood friend and changed her sisters’ song from “Make me a match, find me a man” to “Make me no match, find me no man.” I thought the second sister foolish for falling for a man whose interruptions of the scripture she questioned. And it broke my heart when the third sister was rejected by her father for marrying a Christian.

Other things that stood out: The scene where Tevye tells his dream to convince his wife to let the oldest daughter marry her sweetheart. Jewish men and women couldn’t dance together?

I mentioned great music. “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “Sunrise, Sunset”, and “If I were a Rich Man” were my favorite songs. If you haven’t heard it, the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s version of “If I were a Rich Man” is excellent. It’s my favorite version.

What’s your favorite part or song of Fiddler on the Roof?