SYNOPSIS (Plot Summary)
Tevye, a respected man in the small village of Anatevka, explains the role of God s Law in providing balance and meaning in the Villagers' lives. Tevye and his fellow Anatevkans extol the virtues of their Jewish heritage ("Tradition"). Tevye's family then prepares for the Sabbath while Yente, the matchmaker, brings the news that she has found in Lazar Wolf, the butcher, a match for Tzeitel, Tevye's eldest daughter. Motel, the tailor, visits briefly before being sent away by Tevye's wife, Golde. Tevye's youngest daughters, Shprintze and Bielke, go outside to play while older daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chave, wonder if the matchmaker will find them the men of their dreams ("Matchmaker").
Tevye reflects on how he wishes he had a small fortune ("If I Were a Rich Man"). He then meets a stranger, Perchik, who brings news of trouble in the world beyond Anatevka. Tevye invites the young revolutionary student to his home for Sabbath dinner in exchange for lessons for his daughters. Before Sabbath begins, Motel attempts to ask for Tzeitel's hand, but gets tongue-tied. The family and their Guests welcome the Sabbath ("Sabbath Prayer").
The next evening, Tevye goes to meet Lazar Wolf and agrees to the match with Tzeitel. A boisterous celebration ensues ("To Life"). As Tevye walks home, he meets the Constable, who warns him that a demonstration is planned against the Jews of Anatevka.
The next day, Perchik and Hodel discuss news of the changing world and begin to develop a fondness for one another. Meanwhile, Tevye tells Tzeitel about her engagement to Lazar Wolf as Golde rejoices. Motel reveals to Tevye that he and Tzeitel gave each other a pledge to marry. After a struggle with himself, Tevye agrees to their marriage. The Villagers gossip in the street about the mix-up in Tzeitel s marriage plans. As Chava enters Motel's tailor shop, a group of young Russian Soldiers taunt her. Fyedk, one of the young soldiers, stops them. Fyedka follows Chava into the shop, and they strike up a friendship. At the shop, Motel enters and puts on his wedding hat.
The village gathers for Motel and Tzeitel's wedding, and the traditional Jewish ceremony takes place ("Sunrise, Sunset"). After the ceremony, Motel treads on his wedding glass, and a celebration ensues ("Wedding Dance"). The Constable and his men enter and break up the party with a decisive show of force. Afterwards, Tevye chats with God about these recent events.
Perchik proposes to Hodel, and she accepts, but he must leave for Kiev. He promises to send for her as soon as he can. Tevye approves despite his misgivings. Tevye then asks Golde if their own arranged marriage has somehow turned to love ("Do You Love Me?") Tevye takes Hodel to the train station. She is going to Siberia, where Perchik has been sent after his arrest ("Far from the Home I Love").
Fyedka and Chava have decided to marry. Chava tries to speak to Tevye about the situation, but he refuses to listen to her and forbids her to ever speak of Fyedka again. Tevye returns home to learn from Golde that Chava and Fyedka have been married by the Priest. Tevye ignores Chava's plea for acceptance and turns her away.
The Constable brings the news that all the Jews of Anatevka must sell their homes and leave in three days' time. As Tevye's family packs their wagon to leave, the other Villagers reflect on their lives in "Anatevka." Tzeitel and Motel are staying in Warsaw until they have enough money to go to America. Hodel and Perchik are still in Siberia. Chava appears with Fyedka, but Tevye still refuses to acknowledge her. Chava explains that they are leaving because they cannot stay among people who can do such things to others. As they leave, Tzeitel says goodbye to them, with Tevye prompting her to add, "God be with you!" Chava and Fyedka leave as Tevye begins to pull the wagon. Other Villagers join the circle, including the Fiddler, whom Tevye beckons to follow. The Fiddler tucks his fiddle under his arm and follows the group as they all begin their journey.
Tevye is the heart and conscience of Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye's stature really comes from his integrity and zest for life. Tevye should be able to show the wide range of conflict, joy and pain that this character feels throughout the story. Your actor needs to be comfortable speaking directly to the audience and must develop a comfortable rapport with them. He must have a strong, easily projected voice that can fill your performance space.
Golde is the backbone of the family. She has a rather gruff exterior, but in her heart is sheer dedication to her family. When casting Golde, remember that she must be able to manage Tevye. She runs the household, and must be able to keep Tevye s more emotional side in check. Conversely, she should be able to show a softer side when dealing with Chava and Tevye' s rift.
Tzeitel is the oldest daughter of Tevye and Golde. She is the first to challenge the traditions of Anatevka by pleading with her fateher to let her marry Motel the tailor, to whom she has pledged her love. Keep in mind that she is the oldest daughter, is determined and can manipulate her father.
Hodel is a strong, independent middle child. She is outspoken but respectful. She has her eye on the Rabbi's son at the outset of the story, but she is charmed by the revolutionary Perchick the moment she meets him, though she may not show it right away. Her dedication and love is real as she follows him to Siberia.
Chava is the scholarly daughter who loves to read. Her love the Russian, Fyedka, tests her father to the very limit and provides the largest conflict in the story.
Shprintze and Bielke
Shprintze and Bielke are the youngest daughters of Tevye and Golde. They are considerably younger than the three matchmaker daughters. They only have a few lines but are featured in quite a few scenes.
Motel is the poor, young tailor who is charmed with Tzeitel. He is an endearing type. He requires a sensitive and nervous, yet lovable portrayal.
Perchik is a young student who brings with him radical new ideas that challenge the traditions of the community. Perchik should be able to hold his own with Tevye. He is a strong character, and clashes with Tevye idealistically, but is likable, charming and ultimately becomes a loyal family member.
Lazar Wolf is a butcher, the town's wealthiest citizen and is the same age as, if not older, than, Tevye. Lazar must appear rather distasteful and feisty, which is why Tzeitel is frightened to marry him. Lazar is one of the featured singers in To Life.
The Fiddler is a silent role, yet an important one, and can easily be played by either a boy or a girl.
Yente is the middle-aged widow who matches up the young people of the village in hopes that they will marry. She is a village busybody and knows all the news of the town.
The constable is the local sheriff representing the Russian government. Cast an actor who can provide a sense of threat and conflict. The constable is a complex character, caught between his good nature towards the people of Anatevka and his duty to the non-Jewish Russian government.
Fyedka is a strong, young, Russian soldier who falls in love with Chava.
Mordcha, Yussel, Avram, the Rabbi and Mendel are smaller roles that add much to the richness of the community portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof JR. Mordcha is a friendly, interesting innkeeper. Yussel is a hatter. Avram is a bookseller. Mendel is the Rabbi s son. The Rabbi is the spiritual center of the community and the actor should be able to play an old man onstage. He should have a comic feel, although this is a serious role. These roles have a short part in To Life that can be spoken or sung.
The Villagers will portray the people of the village as Papas, Mamas, Sons or Daughters. Also included in this group are the Guests, Inn Patrons, Motel s Parents and Motel s Relations. Keep the musicians consistent throughout the show, choosing a few actors with a great rapport. Also, keep family units when casting Motel s parents and relations. This can be as large a group as your stage can safely accommodate. They are the faces of Anatevka.