ON THE RECORD: "Hidden Treasures" Offers a Candy Box Assortment of Sheldon Harnick

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15 Jun 2014

While we needn't go step-by-step through the whole recording, you are likely to pay special attention to the Fiddler section. First comes the opening number "We've Never Missed a Sabbath Yet," for Golde and her five daughters. The music perfectly captures the nature of the show; as an opening number it presumably put attention on the wrong characters, though, and was cut early on. When Jerome Robbins came onto the project and demanded a new opening number, Bock pulled the third section of the song — where Golde sings one theme ("there's noodles to make and chicken to be plucked...") in counterpart with the daughters ("the noodles will be made, the chicken will be plucked..."). Golde's theme became "Who day and night must scramble for a living..."; the daughters kept their theme, with a new lyric ("and who does mama teach..."); this also served as the Fiddler theme that was ultimately used to open and close the show. They wrote two more counterpart themes, for the mothers and the sons, and the whole jumble became "Tradition." The opening section of "We've Never Missed a Sabbath" remains in the show as scene change music following "If I Were a Rich Man"; Harnick also suggests that Jerry used a variation of the melody for "Matchmaker."

The cut "Letters from America," too, played a key part in the finished show. This had been intended as the second act opening, a comedy number following the pogrom just before intermission. The village men consider letters from relatives who've emigrated to America — "who needs America!" they sing — always circling back to a bouncy ditty about their obstinate, Orthodox little shtetl, "where pigs roam through the street." (Bock sets it with musical fills in the accompaniment that suggest 19th-century Russian vaudeville.) Long after the song was cut, Robbins instructed the boys to write a slower, melancholy version of the bouncy ditty, and there was "Anatevka." And then there's one of the prettiest of all Bock and Harnick songs: "Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine" for Motel and Tzeitel, a good example of a perfect song that they discovered didn't quite fit in the final version of the show.

There's plenty more to be mined on "Hidden Treasures" — including a typically Harnickian line in a song for the Brando-like antihero of the Passionella section of The Apple Tree, who instructs the Marilyn Monroe-like movie star to "learn to be like Brecht, man — use your intellecht, man!"

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes," "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Opening Night on Broadway" books, and "The Book of Mormon: The Testament of a Broadway Musical." He also writes the Aisle View blog at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)



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