Songwriting team Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick collaborated with librettist Joseph Stein to write a musical based on stories by Sholom Aleichem. The result was Fiddler on the Roof, which told the story of Tevye, a Jewish milkman in early 1900s Russia (and father of five daughters) who struggles to honor tradition while dealing with the growing anti-Jewish sentiment in his country.
Directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, the production starred Zero Mostel as Tevye and featured Maria Karnilova as Golde, Bea Arthur as Yente, Austin Pendleton as Motel, Bert Convy as Perchik, Joanna Merlin as Tzeitel, and Julia Migenes as Hodel.
The musical, which opened September 22, 1964, was a critical and commercial success. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won nine, including Best Musical, and awards for Mostel and featured actress Karnilova.
The production went on to play a record-setting 3,242 performances and received a special Tony in 1972 for becoming the longest-running musical in Broadway history. It remains the 16th longest-running show in Broadway history. The beloved musical has enjoyed five Broadway revivals (in 1976, 1981, 1990, 2004, and 2015) and a 1971 film adaptation starring Chaim Topol.
The show is currently playing at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, which just announced the third extension of its Yiddish-language production. The musical will now play through November 18 with a special performance on November 10.
Flip through photos of the original costume sketches by costume designer Patricia Zipprodt below: