Fiddler On The Roof Essay, Research Paper
Fiddler on the Roofwas made in to a musical by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick in 1964. It was the fourth of their musicals to be produced by Harold Prince. Although the musical had no pretty scenery, no exotic costumes, average looking girls and no happy ending, the musical sends a clear message to the world. The story reveals the life of the Jewish people living in the Czarist Russia. In Russia and many parts of the world before World War II the Jews try effortlessly to keep alive the traditions that they have held on to for so long. But the Jews of this time are living in an alien and hostile land that will eventually impose so many hardships on the Jews that most would be forced to find refuge in other countries that would be more tolerant of their traditions. Unfortunately, at this time these places were not so easy to come by. Rare refuges were places like the land of Palestine, eternal home for the Jews, welcomed or not and America, the land of democracy that welcomed all. What is amazing about the play is that it does not only reach out to all Jews in history that have been exposed to persecution and being forced to leave their homes and lives but to any ethnic group who has ever faced the cruelty of others.
The melodrama is based on the book by Joseph Stein and stories by Shalom Aleichem. The music was written by Bock and the lyrics by Harnick. The play was directed by Jerome Robbins and B. Arthur. Masdel played the main character, Tevya the protagonist. Tevya is a Jew who lives strictly by the Jewish traditions. His two main dilemma’s in the play are the pogroms that were taking place against the Jews by the Russians and his five daughters they each in their own way reject the traditions that he loves so much. The play begins with the overture, “fiddler”, which is a display of imagery. At this point is considered to be the vamp which leads in to the rest of the musical. Tevya sings the prologue song, “tradition”, in which he introduces the town he lives in and the traditions by which he Jews live. Then comes one of Tevya’s many asides in the play, this one being an uptune song. In the song, Tevya delineates the jobs of all the members of his family and they all go along with he laws of the Jewish religion.
During the course of the play Tevya meets a tragic loss because of the whims of a flawed society. This is also the plot type in the play. The problem was that the Jews in Russia lived in isolation and they had no idea of the outside world. The character role is played by the matchmaker, Yenta. She is the old gossipy women in the town who has to know everything about everybody in the town.
There were many chrises for tevya during the course of the play. For all of his life he wanted his family to follow all of the traditions in the Jewish faith. These were Tevya’s intentions and it was for his purpose that motivates him to be so tough and strict all the time. In order for him to achieve his goal, Tevya could not let his daughters stray away from the Jewish traditions at all. But there were many obstacles during the play that stood in his way. The first was Motol the tailor. Motol falls in love with Tevta’s eldest daughter but according to the tradition she has already been set to marry the butcher of the town. To marry Motol the one that she really loved would reject all that Tevya had believed in. It was at this point in the play that Tevya has an aside on whether or not he should let his daughter marry Motol. His next daughter, wants to marry a revolutionary without any money but desires to turn the world upside down. Although Tevya likes him, he does appear to be an antagonist, because Perchik wants to do away with all of the traditions of the religious faith. An example of this is that in the Jewish religion men and women do not dance together but Perchik sees no problem with it and invokes everyone to dance together. His next daughter, Chava marries a non-Jew, which is the straw that broke the camels back. Once this occurs Tevya does not even consider her to be his daughter. Because of all this Tevya is considered to be a tragedy.
The song, “to life”, sung by the butcher and Tevya is considered to be the production number. Tevya sings a song to his wife on why his daughter should marry Motol and not the butcher. This is the scene song. “Do you love me”, sung by Golda and Tevya is not only the recognition song but also the scene song. “If I was a rich man”, which is sung by Tevya in his barn is considered to be an “I want” song. In this song he pictures himself living in a mansion with a huge staircase. After the intermission there is an entr’acte with the song, “fiddler”, and then played again for the epilogue song.
Fiddler on the Roof, follows the western curve that is used in so many plays. It begins with a prologue which is then followed by a monologue given by Tevya, to the audience about tradition. The whole town of antevka then songs the prologue song about traditional roles. The next part of the play is the exposition. This gives the audience the background information necessary to understand the play. Then “matchmaker”, the scene song is sung. It is at this point that the development of the story arises. It comes about with all the conflicts in Tevya’s family. After the obstacles are revealed to the audience we see the height of development. Then comes the obligatory recognition scene, where Tavya sees that his daughters have completely disobeyed him. When Tevya tells his daughter Chava that she can not see the gentile that she likes so much, Tevya sings a ballet sequence, “Chavala”. The denouement of the play was that Chava married the non-Jew, even though she realized that Tevya her father would be crushed. Then everything begins to fall apart at the climax. During the Epilogue song and the finale the Jewish people of Antevka are forced to leave Russia and begin their lives again.
But at he end of the production when all the Jews are leaving the Fiddler is still playing the violin and Tevya is still smiling. No matter what tasks the Jews face, whether it be persecution, pogroms or any mindless cruelty, they will keep on playing and never give up the faith.