Fiddler on the Roof is perhaps the most widely loved American musical, enjoying laudatory superlatives from musical aficionados and except-this-one kudos from the genre’s haters. It features memorable songs, sharp dialogue, and a story with a subdued gravity that makes the between-song filler of jazz-age musicals and the pop-operatic spectacle of the 1980s look pretty silly.
Fiddler also boasts probably the repertoire’s meatiest role for an older man. There are basically two established ways to play Tevye: as thoughtful and dryly funny (Zero Mostel in the original cast, Alfred Molina in the 2004 revival) and as a scenery-chewing bundle of good-natured Jewish caricature (Topol in the West End production and the film version; most others who have played the role since).
But there are many other Tevyes out there. In a brief piece for Guilt & Pleasure, self-dubbed theater critics Mel & Tonin comment on some of the more unusual selections among the many Fiddler interpretations available on YouTube.
While the harmonica quartet is exotic, I’m partial to the short film of “Tradition” in which we meet the various citizens not of Anatevka but a small U.S. town. —Steve Thorngate