‘Fiddler on the Roof’ to hit NY stage in Yiddish

More than 100 years after Sholem Aleichem created Tevye, the milkman returns to his roots.

December 28, 2017 14:23
1 minute read.
‘Fiddler on the Roof’ to hit NY stage in Yiddish

A performance of 'Fiddler On The Roof' at the Cameri Theater, Tel Aviv, May 2008. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / RONI TOREN)

The beloved Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof is getting a new adaptation – into Yiddish. The National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene in New York City began selling advance tickets on Wednesday for a summer production of the show, which first premiered on Broadway in 1964.

There is a fair amount of irony in the latest staging of the play, which has become a cultural touchstone over the past 50 years. The original Broadway production was written by Joseph Stein but based on the Yiddish stories written by Sholem Aleichem, the well-known author and playwright.

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In fact, Aleichem’s many stories about family patriarch Tevye got their start on the Yiddish stage long before Broadway. In 1919, Tevye the Milkman premiered in New York at the Yiddish Art Theater, just a few years after Sholem Aleichem’s death. According to Alison Solomon’s 2013 book Wonder of Wonders, that original staging “sold out for 16 straight weeks.”

The Yiddish hit then entered the theater troupe’s rotation and traveled to cities across the US and Europe. In the next decade, it was re-staged in Vilna, Warsaw, Moscow and more, said Solomon. In 1939 a Yiddish-language film, called Tevya, was produced in New York City, though with a very different ending for the fate of Chava, one of Tevye’s daughters.

And even the iconic Broadway version of the show – later immortalized in the 1971 film – has been staged in Yiddish before. Just a year after Fiddler hit Broadway, the show was adapted to Hebrew at Habimah in Tel Aviv, and then to Yiddish on the same stage.

The upcoming Yiddish adaptation was announced by Folksbiene last week. According to Playbill.com, it will be staged at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and begin running in July.

In a statement, the theater’s CEO, Christopher Massimine, said the show “will be presented in the context of a historical retrospective hypothetically introducing the idea in that Sholem Aleichem has been present at the conception of the adaptation of his work for the musical stage. The idea we are putting forth would be an accurate recreation of how this musical might look in its native Yiddish tongue.”

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