Performance dates: 23-27 January 2007
Venue: The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke
The year is 1905 and a Jewish community in Tsarist Russia is trying to eke out a living in its shtetl in the village of Anatevka. Tevye is a milkman who has a personal relationship with God in whom he confides all. He strives, very hard, to keep up the traditions of his faith, race and culture. He has five daughters, itself a problem but what is more pressing is trying to find husbands for the eldest three children. Yente, the matchmaker, does her best, but with no dowry to offer, she finds that her work is very difficult. Even so, the girls dream of the love that they will find one day. Tevye makes his way home, dreaming of an easier life. He arrives just in time for the Sabbath Prayer, which is echoed throughout the Jewish community.
Tevye is manipulated by his wife Golde into meeting up with the wealthy butcher Lazar Wolf (who he doesn’t like). Lazar is interested in marrying Tevye’s eldest daughter Tzeitel. After much confusion, they make an agreement and celebrate. However, Tzeitel begs Tevye to recant his promise, as she has pledged her troth to the young tailor, Motel. Tevye, not wanting to hurt his daughter, agrees. To placate Golde, Tevye conjures up a dream in which the ghost of Golde’s Grandma Tzeitel would much prefer her granddaughter to marry the tailor. When the dream ghost of Fruma Sarah (Lazar’s first wife) promises to curse the marriage, Golde is pursuaded.
At the wedding ceremony between Motel and Tzeitel, there is a pogrom, an anti-Jewish demonstration, orchestrated by the Chief of Police, which casts into doubt the stability of Jewish life in Tsarist Russia.
Tevye’s second daughter, Hodel, has fallen in love with Perchik, a political student and an activist against the repressive regime. Perchik has to leave urgently for Kiev, but before leaving asks Hodel to marry him. Tevye refuses to give his permission for Hodel and Perchik to marry, but they tell Tevye that they are not asking his permission to marry; merely his blessing. Tevye relents, then explains this to Golde, comforting her with the thought that love is constant. Later, Perchik is arrested and is to be sent to Siberia. Hodel leaves join him. She promises her father they will be married, under a canopy, in the traditional Jewish way. Her father accompanies her to the railway station to bid her farewell.
Chava, Tevye’s third daughter falls in love with Fyedka, a Russian soldier. As he is not Jewish, they elope and marry in front of a priest. When Chava returns to talk to her father, Tevye cannot reconcile himself to this massive break with Tradition. From this point on, Chava ceases to be his daughter and is shunned.
Meanwhile, Anatevka itself is under threat. The Jews are being forced to leave their homes. Many of them decide to go to live in America where many of them have friends and relations. Tevye and Golde and the two youngest children are to go there. Motel and Tzeitel, who now have a child of their own, will join them in the future. Chava and Fyedka, shunned by the Jews and hating what is happening in Russia, leave for Poland.