Monday, September 22, 2008
A FIDDLER, A PATRIOT, A SONGWRITER AND A MANAGER
On this date in 1964, one of the greatest musicals of all time opened at the Imperial Theatre in 1964 and remained on Broadway (although it changed theatres for over three thousand performances. Fiddler on the Roof was originally entitled Tevye. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Milkman) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem which he wrote in Yiddish and published in 1894. Back in 1964, the stories would still be under copyright, but no longer. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. He must cope with both the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters—each daughter's choice of husband moves progressively further away from established customs—and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village.The musical's title stems from a painting by Marc Chagall one of many surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life, often including a fiddler. The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance. "Fiddler On The Roof" was the first musical to surpass the 3,000 performance mark, and it held the record for longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. Now here's something, dear reader that you need to pay attention to: The original Broadway production (not any revivals) earned $1,574 for every dollar invested in it. The show was capitalized at four million dollars. That's four million times 1,574-- or a small fortune.The show was highly acclaimed and nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned four Broadway revivals, ( the first three were busts, however) a successful 1971 film adaptation, and has enjoyed enduring international popularity. It is also a very popular choice for school and community productions. I remember that this was the very first musical that I had ever seen. The year was 1980. The place: The Gallery Theatre-- for which I attended an amazing reunion on Saturday night. Mr. Duane Thomas (who was at this re-union) played Teyve so brilliantly, it absolutely hooked me on musical theatre. He was so good, it brought tears to my eyes. Mark Shipley was also at the reunion had directed it. I remember the dream sequence as brilliant. The Broadway revivals were almost embarrassing however. The first stayed open only 176 performances in 1976 and a really embarrassing 53 performances in 1981. In 1990, it was a bit better at 241 and the most recent stayed open for 781 performances. The songwriter in our headline was the amazing Irving Berlin. We lost him on this date in 1989 at the age of 101. Irving wrote fifteen hundred songs in his lifetime. If you read this, play some Berlin today. He'll hear it-- trust me. Maybe play a verse or two of "There's No Business Like Show Business! Maybe Tony can sing that song today and my friend Tim can play it on his grand piano! The patriot we honor today is none other than Nathan Hale-- "If I only have one life, let me give it to my country" He was hung as a spy today. The manager is Tommy Lasorda. Today he is 81. Tommy won us Dodger fans two World Series . The first was 1981. the second was 1988. Twenty years since we've won a World Series! Oh well. Today is another interesting day for history-- Sara Jane Moore tried to assassinate Gerald Ford in 1975. What a crazy woman1! Oh well. She still sits in jail. And interesting-- Gerald Ford remains the only US president to serve only two years and the only president in that two years who had two attempts upon his life. I've completed a new musical book based on my experiences with Danny Simon, the older brother of Neil. It's called "The Brothers Laughter" and it really turned very funny and pretty damn good. Well, my birthday is in two days-- imagine that. I'm going to be 61.