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Synopsis

The action takes place in Anatevka, an impoverished peasant village in czarist Russia, populated largely by hard-working Jewish families. The time is 1905, on the eve of the Russian revolutionary period. We are introduced to Tevye, the dairyman – a pious man who has raised his five daughters with the aid of quotations from the Scriptures, most of which he invents himself. The people of Anatevka are simple and close to the earth. They hear little news of the outside world, and their lives are governed strictly by the age-old laws of Tradition. Yente, the matchmaker, goes to Tevye’s house to tell his wife Golde that the town’s wealthiest citizen, Lazar Wolf, the butcher, wants to marry their eldest daughter, Tzeitel. Golde is delighted at the prospect of such a good catch for Tzeitel, despite the fact that Lazar Wolf is vulgar and as old as Tevye himself. Tzeitel and her two sisters, Hodel and Chava, dream of the ideal husbands that Vente will someday bring them – Matchmaker. On his way home for Sabbath dinner, Tevye encounters Perchik, a young student and aspiring social reformer. Although Tevye is poor (If I Were a Rich Man), he desires his girls to grow up learned in the ways of the Good Book. He offers Perchik food if the boy will give lessons to his daughters. At home, surrounded by his loved ones and their new guest, Tevye and Golde lead the family circle in a tender and haunting Sabbath Prayer. Tevye meets Lazar Wolf at the local inn and agrees to let the butcher marry Tzeitel if he promises to keep her in comfort. They make a toast To Life and are joined in their good cheer by all their friends. The rejoicing is brought to a halt by the entrance of the constable who informs Tevye that orders have come through for a demonstration to be held soon against all the Jews in the district. While Tevye is offering Tzeitel’s hand to Lazar Wolf, the girl is promising her own hand to a meek and miserably poor little tailor named Motel. When they inform Tevye of their betrothal plans, he is, at first, shocked that they have broken the tradition that demands the papa choose the husband for the daughter. But, realizing that their love is deep, he gives his blessing, much to Motel’s amazement – Miracle Of Miracles. Now, faced with the problem of informing his wife that Tzeitel will not be marrying into wealth, Tevye devises a scheme in which he pretends to awaken in the night as a result of a nightmare. Playing upon Golde’s superstitiousness, Tevye tells her that her long-deceased grandmother came to him and warned him to make a match with Motel, the tailor. In the hilarious dream sequence that follows, Golde becomes convinced that Motel is the better choice – The Dream. Now that Tzeitel has set a precedent by marrying the man she loves, the old order begins to break down. Perchik becomes attracted to Hodel. The wedding of Motel and Tzeitel is a joyous traditional event (Sunrise, Sunset), but its gaiety is interrupted by the police, who begin to carry out the threatened purge by smashing the gifts and destroying the furnishings of the Jewish homes. For the first time Tevye has no suitable quotation from the Scriptures but simply looks up to God for some explanation. Act II opens two months later. Motel and Tzeitel are poor but happy in their marriage and Perchik and Hodel are very much in love – Now I Have Everything. For quite some time Perchik has expressed deep resentment of the czar’s cruelty. He informs Tevye that he wants to marry Hodel but must immediately join his compatriots in their revolutionary social activities. Seeing two of his daughters marry for love, Tevye wonders if, after twenty-five years, Golde loves him – Do You Love Me? Presently news arrives (The Rumor) that Perchik has been arrested in Kiev and has been sent to Siberia. Hodel, wanting to be near her man, decides to join him, and, tearfully, Tevye leaves her at the railroad station – Far From The Home I Love. Now the safe world Tevye has struggled so hard to build for his family receives its greatest blow. The czar has ordered all Jews to evacuate their age-old homes in Anatevka and move elsewhere. Although they sing lovingly of their old home (Anatevka), there is little time for sentiment. The villagers have begun to move out to all corners of the globe. Tevye’s few belongings are packed on his cart, and he and his family begin to move off to another land where they feel there will be no hatred, no cruelty, no poverty; they begin the long journey to America as the curtain falls.

Credits

Tevye, a dairyman: Zero Mostel Golde, his wife: Maria Karnilova Tzeitel, their daughter: Joanna Merlin Hodel, their daughter: Julia Migenes Chava, their daughter: Tanya Everett Shprintze: Marilyn Rogers Bielke: Linda Ross Yente, a matchmaker: Beatrice Arthur Motel Kamzoil, a tailor: Austin Pendleton Shandel, his mother: Helen Verbit Perchik, a student: Bert Convy Lazar Wolf, a butcher: Michael Granger Mordcha, an innkeeper: Zvee Scooler Rabbi: Gluck Sandor Mendel, his son: Leonard Frey Avram, a bookseller: Paul Lipson Nahum, a beggar: Maurice Edwards Grandma Tzeitel, Golde’s grandmother: Sue Babel Fruma-Sarah, Lazar Wolf’s first wife: Carol Sawyer Yussel, a hatter: Mitch Thomas Constable: Joseph Sullivan Fyedka, a young man: Joe Ponazecki Sasha, his friend: Robert Berdeen and The Fiddler: Gino Conforti Villagers: Tom Abbott, John C. Attle, Sue Babel, Sammy Bayes, Robert Berdeen, Lorenzo Bianco, Duane Bodin, Robert Currie, Sarah Felcher, Tony Gardell, Louis Genevrino, Ross Gifford, Dan Jasin, Sandra Kazan, Thom Koutsoukos, Sharon Lerit, Sylvia Mann, Peff Modelski, Irene Paris, Charles Rule, Carol Sawyer, Roberta Senn, Mitch Thomas, Helen Vervit.