A Broadway ‘tradition’ brings back memories for Centre faculty and staff

It’s no surprise that Fiddler on the Roof, the 15th longest running-show in history and the first musical to surpass 3,000 performances on Broadway, has been a part of family traditions for nearly 50 years.

The Norton Center asked a few familiar faces to tell us why they LOVE the show so much and got some headlining and heartfelt responses:


“Music and musicals were an important part of my life as a young person.  I count a joy to have participated in several big shows as a junior high and high school student.  Never got the chance to be in Fiddler, but on my ‘bucket list’ is to play Tevye and, in particular, sing If I Were a Rich Man!”
– President John Roush, Centre College

“Sholem Aleichem, who wrote Tevye’s Daughters in 1894, was one of my father’s favorite authors, and I grew up hearing his stories at bedtime as a young girl. I even learned some Yiddish (the language in which Sholem Aleichem wrote) listening to my dad. As I recognized later, my father wove his own father’s story into his retelling of Sholem Aleichem’s tales. My grandfather was born in Russia in the late 1800’s and experienced the pogroms (anti-Jewish riots) of 1903-1906. In fact, those pogroms forced him and his brothers and sisters to leave the country and emigrate to the United States. My great grandparents were among those who died in the Kishinev Pogrom (1903).

My grandfather (my Zayde) was a voracious reader, and he established a very successful furniture business in Allentown, PA, but he never learned how to write, either in Russian, Yiddish or English. He loved to tell stories though, which he shared with my dad. I don’t think that it is surprising that he didn’t speak of the horrors he must have witnessed, although he did tell my dad that he was certain that the government instigated the riots that killed his parents. Apparently, Zayde fled with an older brother just after his Bar Mitzvah at 13. He couldn’t carry very much, but he did manage to safeguard the tallit or prayer shawl that his father had given to him at his Bar Mitzvah – and that prayer shawl was given to my dad when he was Bar Mitzvahed and then was shared with my sons at their Bar Mitzvahs and again with my older son, Sam, at his wedding last summer (when Sam and I danced to ‘Sunrise, Sunset’).

In my grandfather’s life as in Tevye’s, there was a tension between the old ways (traditions) that have preserved the Jewish people for milennia and modern ways that sometimes threatened to tear families apart. One of my grandfather’s sisters, Miriam, like Tevye’s daughter, Tzeitel, refused to marry the man the matchmaker chose, and begged her father to let her marry her childhood sweetheart. Sadly, that marriage never took place because of the pogroms that forced so many Jews to find new homes.

In 1966, I saw Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway for the first time. Zero Mostel was one impressive Tevye……but then, so was Herschel Bernardi in 1981 (my first visit to Lincoln Center, I think), and Topol in 1990. Clearly, Fiddler on the Roof is one of my Broadway favorites. I love the story, and the music, and the threads that link me to my past.”
–Beth Glazier-McDonald, Associate Dean, Centre College

Fiddler on the Roof holds a special place in my heart for a couple of reasons; It was originally designed by one of the giants of scenic design, Boris Aronson, a russian Jew who emigrated in the early 1920’s and began working professionally in The Yiddish Art Theatre where he introduced a new, Eastern-European aesthetic to the American stage. He eventually went on to work with the powerhouse collaborative team of Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince on Company, A Little Night Music, Follies and Pacific Overtures – towering productions in the arc of musical theatre history.

Secondly – I love Fiddler… because it helps us explore a very modern question: how do we survive in a world that is constantly changing? Do we rely upon our traditions? Do we shed them for new ways? Or can we look at what is essential in life and renegotiate with ourselves so we can keep on moving forward?

Oh – and the music is gorgeous.”
-Matthew Hallock, Dramatic Arts Professor

***
About Fiddler on the Roof:
Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, the Tony Award® winning musical Fiddler on the Roof has been lauded by critics again and again and has won the hearts of people all around the world. Filled with a rousing, heartwarming score, which includes “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were A Rich Man,” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” Fiddler on the Roof is a timeless classic. No other musical has so magically woven music, dance, poignancy and laughter into such an electrifying and unforgettable experience. Relive a glorious tradition of the musical theatre with Fiddler on the Roof.

Fiddler on the Roof
Norton Center’s Newlin Hall
Sunday, March 4 at 4:00 PM

Tickets start at just $38 and can be purchased online.


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