A Reflection on Fiddler of the Roof

fiddler_webbannerby Matthew Falduto

Coralville – Tomorrow night, Coralville audiences will experience a classic musical theatre show – Fiddler on the Roof, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein. Directed by Ian Zehren, and featuring scene stealing actor Chris Carpenter as Tevye, the show promises to be an excellent adventure at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts.

My history with Fiddler goes back to the late seventies, when as an impressionable boy, I watched my sister portray Hodel, the middle daughter, who demands to live her life as she wants despite Tradition. I was captivated by the daughters fighting against their father and the traditions of the past. It awakened a bit of a revolutionary spirit in me, but the fact that their parents (eventually) answered with love and understanding also resonated with me. This is how families should disagree – always remembering that the love that binds them is stronger than that which divides them. (And in current climate in our country, that’s probably a message well worth remembering.)

My seven year old self was also struck by the joy of the musical. Songs like “Tradition” were powerful experiences of song and dance that sucked me into a world of theatre that I’ve never left. I also loved “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” which featured my sister. Seeing her on stage performing made me realize very quickly that this is what I wanted to do. (I was signed up for a children’s theatre class not long after that. Thanks, Mom.) The longing of the song, finding a husband that they could love, someone who would be worthy of them, perhaps awakened my first thoughts about relationships, though I’m sure my seven year old self quickly pushed that away in favor of just singing the songs with gusto and joy.

Another moment of the play that sticks with me is my sister singing Hodel’s song, “Far From the Home I Love.” She sang with a sadness and a longing that touched me though I’m sure I couldn’t express why back then. I’m a bit of an emotional person and I started to realize that I could share that emotion on stage. I’ve always been drawn to the more dramatic roles and I think Fiddler was part of why I want to go there.

fiddler-albumWe had the cast album from the movie (Deluxe 2 Record Set!) and in the years that followed I listened to it over and over again. (This was, of course, an actual vinyl record – no CDs back then.) One of my favorites from the album was “Miracle of Miracles,” which may be one of the most joyous songs in all of musical theatre. I sang that song over and over again. I am sure it annoyed my older brothers. (But probably not my sister so much.)

The humor of the show made it very accessible too. Tevye is a very funny character. His “If I Were a Rich Man” song is a classic. And I remember working very hard to get all of the nonsense words down… biddy biddy bum… if I were a wealthy man! And I fairly certain that I learned how to snap my fingers (both hands!) because of that song.

I think most theatre people have a show or three they saw as kids that brought them into the world of theatre. One of mine was definitely Fiddler on the Roof. I can’t wait to revisit it this weekend. Tickets are available here.

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