Fiddler on the Roof: Summary, Characters & Songs

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  • 0:00 'Fiddler on the Roof'
  • 0:43 Synopsis
  • 1:24 Characters
  • 1:57 Songs
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Colleen Cleveland

Colleen has taught college level Game Development and Graphic Design and has a Master's in Interactive Entertainment and Masters in Media Psychology.

In this lesson, we'll learn about the major plot points, characters and songs found in the musical, 'Fiddler on the Roof', the story of a poor Jewish family in rural Russia.

Fiddler on the Roof

In 1964, Fiddler on the Roof was developed for Broadway. It was based on a book called Tevye's Daughters by Sholom Aleichem. Though initially criticized for being overly ethnic, the musical enjoyed an approximate ten-year run on the Broadway stage and toured both nationally and internationally. Fiddler on the Roof won several Tony awards, including Best Musical in 1965. Over the years, the original has lead to a number of revivals. Some celebrities, such as Rosie O'Donnell and Lea Michele, have even played characters from the musical on the stage. Fiddler on the Roof was made into a film in 1971.


In the musical, Tevye, the guide and narrator, is living in rural Russia in a small town where he is raising five daughters. Although, it is a Jewish custom for a matchmaker to choose husbands for the daughters, his daughters have other ideas in mind. Three of Tevye's five daughters fall in love with men that don't quite fit their father's image of an ideal husband. One of the three elopes is with a man who is not Jewish. In the midst of the love stories, Tevye is concerned about anti-Jewish demonstrations and sentiments in his community. Eventually, his family and their fellow Jews are forced to leave their village. Throughout the musical, Tevye examines his Jewish beliefs and questions how he can walk the pathway of his faith when the world around him is changing.

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