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Parashat Vayigash

12/20/2017 05:57:04 PM


Parashat Vayigash
5 Tevet 5778

It's nearly December 24 -- just one day away from that magical meal of mu-shu vegetables and egg foo-yung you've been waiting for. So while you're waiting, munch some popcorn and indulge your craving for great entertainment with a new holiday tradition: the “Fiddler on the Roof” Sing-Along -- with friends!  This is the 10th year that the Laemmle Theaters have hosted this fun event, proceeds going to support The Jewish Historical Society.  Not only is this a screening of a brilliant film of perhaps the greatest musical of all time, but there will also be songs, games and prizes, all led by your host " me!

So to prepare you for the Big Quiz on the Big Night, here are some facts and a brief quiz about the landmark musical, “Fiddler on the Roof”.  No, this isn't cheating or stacking the deck for VBS members…  Okay, it is stacking the deck for VBS members, but I'm okay with that!

“Fiddler” began with a series of stories about Tevye the Dairyman written by the great Shalom Aleichem.  As a boy I read the “Chelm” stories about life in a small Jewish town full of noodnicks.  Aleichem's writing has the flavor of those tales and much more.

The idea for the musical began with the show's songwriters, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. They brought in the brilliant librettist Joseph Stein. The three creators were all children of Jewish immigrants, knew Yiddish (Stein was fluent), and so were able to capture the flavor of the mythical shtetl Anatevka, painting its inhabitants with a broad brush without devolving into caricature.

The three approached producer Hal Prince, who first said no due to his production schedule, then changed his mind when he heard the songs. Then, after a long delay, Jerome Robbins was also available to choreograph and direct.

Even with all that talent, the creative process was not easy.  Consider that a dozen songs were written for the show that never made it to the Broadway production.  In fact, enough good songs were dropped from the show that last year the 92nd Street Y produced an entire show built around Fiddler's outcasts.  Imagine, we've had to survive 50 years of “Fiddler” without the song, “Dear Sweet Sewing Machine!”

Multiple scripts were written and “recycled.”  Multiple productions were mounted “out-of-town,” and a lot of money was invested during the process.

Of course, it was worth all the sweat. Fiddler was the first Broadway musical to pass the 3,000-performance mark and ultimately ran for a record 3,242 shows. It is a classic of the American theater that has been a sensation all over the globe, and continues to be wildly popular. The most recent Broadway revival was in 2016.

So, you think you now a lot about “Fiddler on the Roof?” Here are some basic questions everyone should be able to answer about “Fiddler” (answers below). Thanks to Steve Sass for his help with these. I hope to see you Sunday night at the Laemmle Town Center in Encino!


1. In what language is Shalom Aleichem's book written?

2. What famous actress played Yente the matchmaker on Broadway?

3. For what musical did Zero Mostel win a Tony Award before Fiddler on the Roof?

4. The record for most Broadway performances stood for almost 10 years until this show surpassed it...

5. What famous entertainer played the oldest daughter Tzeitel during the first run of the Broadway play?

6. The 1971 movie version of Fiddler on the Roof was the third largest grossing film of the years 1971-1972 at 80.5 million.  Name either film that topped it.

7. Who wrote the Oscar-nominated film score?

8. Which notable Yiddish stage and screen star plays Yente in the film?

9. How old was Chaim Topol when he filmed Fiddler?

10. In what year did the film take place?

11. Who played Tevye after Zero Mostel?

12. For what type of occasion did Sheldon Harnick re-write some of the lyrics to
"Sunrise Sunset" in 2011?

13. What was the film-cast's nickname for Tevye's horse?

14. What two things belonging to Herschel Bernardi were seen in the 2016 Broadway revival?

15. The film was produced by the three Mirisch brothers.  Their descendent John Mirisch has what important job?

(Scroll down for answers)

















  1. Yiddish
  2. Bea Arthur
  3. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
  4. “Grease” (3,388 performances)
  5. Bette Midler
  6. Poseidon Adventure, The Godfather
  7. John Williams
  8. Molly Picon
  9. 35
  10. 1905
  11. Herschel Bernardi
  12. Gay weddings
  13. “Shmuel”
  14. His son, and his boots
  15. Mayor of Beverly Hills

Sun, April 14 2024 6 Nisan 5784