Could There Be a New Chapter in Fiddler on the Roof’s Musical Legacy?

Special Features   Could There Be a New Chapter in Fiddler on the Roof’s Musical Legacy? With the concert version of After Anatevka, new songwriters explore musical possibilities.
Sheldon Harnick, Alexandra Silber, John Cullum
Sheldon Harnick, Alexandra Silber, John Cullum Courtesy Rahav Segev/Photopass

This summer, Broadway actor Alexandra Silber becomes a published author with her book After Anatevka. But on March 28, she also became a sort of librettist when Project Broadway at Symphony Space produced a concert of original songs tied to passages of the upcoming novel—part of the Project’s mission to present a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process and unusual collaborations between artists.

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After an evening of songs about Hodel and Perchik and Tzeitl (plus the novel’s new cast of characters), a new possibility appeared: Could After Anatevka be the next musical chapter in the Fiddler on the Roof legacy?

No official plans have been made, and Silber is concerned, first and foremost, with finalizing the novel—yet another piece of art she hadn’t originally intended. “I felt moved to have a creative outlet outside of performance,” she says. “Writing was a really wonderful, fulfilling outlet that I didn’t feel like anybody needed to read. I just needed to do it.

“Right after I finished playing Hodel in the West End, I was uncharacteristically haunted by this character,” says Silber, who—since her time in the West End—has also played Fiddler’s eldest daughter Tzeitl in the most recent Broadway revival. “When I was 18, I got on a plane and moved to Scotland to go to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and I was at a very adverse time in my own life,” she explains, having lost her father around that time. “I realize now there’s definitely a parallel between making sure that this 18-year-old girl who gets on a train to Siberia [Hodel] is really the beginning of another story.”

Fiddler on the Roof’s lyricist Sheldon Harnick, who writes the forward to Silber’s book, agrees. “It’s taken on a life of its own,” he says. “She took Hodel and went so much farther than Shalom Aleichem ever imagined that character would go,” referring to the original stories of Tevye the dairyman and his daughters written by the Jewish author that inspired Fiddler.

But just as Harnick doesn’t see Fiddler as a “sequel” to Aleichem’s work, he doesn’t see After Anatevka as a sequel to his. Still, listening to the concert version of the novel, sounds of Fiddler composer Jerry Bock and lyrical tendencies of Harnick crept through these original compositions. Songwriter Will Reynolds, who wrote “The Waiting World” based on Chapter 35 of Silber’s story, admitted that he consciously paid homage to Bock and Harnick’s work in his song.

Ryan Silverman and Santino Fontana sing in <i>After Anatevka</i>
Ryan Silverman and Santino Fontana sing in After Anatevka Courtesy Rahav Segev/Photopass

Many of the other songwriters, who altogether created eight pieces corresponding to Silber’s chapters, agreed: Their work was influenced by Harnick and Bock, but pushed beyond into a new world.

For Silber, prior to the Symphony Space event, she envisioned After Anatevka’s next life cinematically. “It feels like a mini series to me. So much of the book is deeply psychological and epically sweeping that is more accessible on film.” That being said, “If someone came to me and was like, ‘I know how to solve that problem/concern of yours’ I’d be so open to talking about it,” she says. Still, it seems that the concert is not one and done, as there is talk of a studio recording of the music—possibly as a downloadable album to accompany the audiobook or e-book version.

“‘There comes a moment when a piece of art belongs to us all,’” Silber quotes actor Angela Lansbury. “I was lucky enough to be at the birth of something that became a part of the universal canon; that’s how I feel about Fiddler.” Only time will tell how After Anatevka will join its musical ancestors for a new generation.

After Anatevka featured songs by Oran Eldor and Adam Overett, Ben Toth and Alexandra Silber, Lance Horn, Will Reynolds and Eric Price, Joseph Thalken and Joseph Amodio, Julianne Wick Davis and Maggie-Kate Coleman, Matthew Sklar and Amanda Green, and Jeffrey Stock. Actors Jessica Fontana, Santino Fontana, Ron Raines, Ryan Silverman, Isabel Santiago, Daniel Rowan, and Alexandrea Silber performed. For more information on Project Broadway and Symphony Space, visit SymphonySpace.org.

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