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10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

July 31, 2013
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The Dead Man, 1908, by Marc Chagall

• The storyline is based on the stories in Tevye and His Daughters, by Sholom Aleichem.

• The title of the play comes from Marc Chagall’s 1908 painting, The Dead Man, which depicts a funeral scene with a man playing a violin on a rooftop.

• The original 1964 production of the play became, at the time, the longest-running musical in Broadway history, with 3,242 performances — a record that would be broken 10 years later by Grease.

• There have been four Broadway revivals of the play.

• Among the actors who have appeared in one of the Broadway productions: Bea Arthur, Adrienne Barbeau, Bert Convy, Bette Midler, Harvey Fierstein, Leonard Nimoy, Pia Zadora, Alfred Molina, Andrea Martin, Rosie O’Donnell, Barbara Barrie and Lea Michele.

• While no specific numbers are available, Music Theatre International, the official licensing representative for the play, says that thousands of productions of Fiddler take the stage each year. According to Time magazine, Fiddler on the Roof was the seventh most-produced high school musical in 2007.

• The director of the film version, Norman Jewison, cast Topol instead of Zero Mostel, who originated the role of Tevye on Broadway, because he felt Mostel brought too much levity to the role.

• Jewison was chosen by producers because they thought he was Jewish. His first words upon meeting with them were, “You know I’m not Jewish, right?”

• To achieve the desired feel of the era, Oswald Morris, the cinematographer, shot the entire film with a brown stocking over the lens.

• The music from the play has long been popular for recording artists, from Cannonball Adderley’s 1964 jazz album, Fiddler on the Roof, to Gwen Stefani’s 2004 duet with Philadelphia-born rapper Eve on “Rich Girl,” which uses the melody and some of the lyrics of “If I Were a Rich Man,” and reached No. 7 on the Billboard pop chart.
 

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