The musical “Fiddler on the Roof” debuted on Broadway in 1964. The show has continued to find audiences because it tells a story of family and culture that appeals to different audiences.
It is also one of a few musicals out there to focus on Jewish characters and culture. The national tour of “Fiddler on the Roof” will visit ASU Gammage from January 28 to February 2. It follows Tevye, a dairyman in Imperial Russia with five daughters who is trying to maintain his cultural and religious values despite outside influences.
His three oldest daughters Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava are also caught between their desire to follow their father’s wishes and marry for love.
The family must find a way to reconcile this conflict as they also face anti-Semitism and eviction from their village in Czarist Russia.
Created by Jerome Robbins, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein, the musical won nine Tony Awards in 1964 and was made into an award-winning film in 1971.
The show features iconic songs such as “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “If I Were a Rich Man.”
On the national tour, actress Ruthy Froch plays Hodel, Tevye’s second-oldest daughter.
This is her first national tour, but actress has also been in a regional production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” and the John Travolta film “Gotti.” “Fiddler on the Roof” was very important to her father, who introduced her to the show.
“It was something we shared together,” Froch says. “I think that is what made it so special, his excitement over showing me ‘Fiddler.’ He plays the piano, so he would sit down at the piano and play the music to ‘Fiddler.’ Of course, connecting to his Jewish roots makes him very happy, and watching him do that only brought out my joy in it.”
In the show, her character Hodel seeks to defy tradition by getting just her father’s blessing instead of his permission to marry a radical named Perchik, the man she loves.
When Froch first saw “Fiddler on the Roof,” she identified with Hodel’s intelligence and wit.
“She is searching to find where she belongs in this town, a place where women don’t really have control and don’t have much power. As a very powerful young woman internally, whether she externalizes that and gets punished for it or acts out in her own way, she is very strong,” Froch says.
Her character is strives to find her own way in the family as the middle child. All of the sisters go through their own journeys in defining their own lives.
“Between Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava, you are watching three young women realize what they want, how to get what they want and standing up for themselves and realizing the power of their voices. Especially today and especially for young women, to watch somebody do that live and in front of you is palpable and exciting,” Froch says.
The cast performs an updated version of “Fiddler on the Roof,” created for the 2015 Broadway revival. This version contains new choreography from Hofesh Shechter.
“Hofresh’s choreography is very pedestrian, grounded, rooted and very traditionally Jewish,” Froch says. “It is such specific, nuanced and mesmerizing choreography.”
Like many of her castmates and audience members, Froch has a long history with the show. When she was in high school, she played the role of Tzeitel.
“Everybody has a ‘Fiddler’ story, whether it is something that they done, or we get the person who has never seen Fiddler before. That is exciting too to be able to expose someone to something that I love deeply,” Froch says.
Froch says when watching the show as adults, audience members often see “Fiddler” in a whole new way. This is especially true during moments when Jewish people are discriminated against by those in power.
“As a high schooler, you can understand it, but it’s so much deeper in our adult lives, especially with the way that our world is,” Froch says.
With the show, the cast exposes audience members from around the country to aspects of the Jewish culture and history.
Froch says although the show was written over 50 years ago, it still presents an accurate depiction of Jewish culture because of how it presents human characters impacted by their traditions, their dreams and their circumstances.
“‘Fiddler’ is something where no matter how old you are, you really identify with the daughters or the suiters, or you are an adult and you identify more with Tevye and Golde. Or you’re the fun aunt and you identify with Yente,” Froch says.
“Fiddler on the Roof”
ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe, 480.965.3434, asugammage.com, various times Tuesday, January 28, to Sunday, February 2, tickets start at $40.