Fiddler on the Roof

Sep 24, 2014

This week in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Broadway's sixteenth longest-running show in history our Throwback Thursday segment celebrates tradition. For over the past half century is there anyone out there who has not appeared in, or been involved with, or at least seen a live production of Fiddler on the Roof? A musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by East Hampton's own Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, it is set in the Pale of Imperial Russia in 1905. Based on Tevye and his Daughters and other tales by Sholem Aleichem the story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. For 5 decades in addition to numerous Broadway revivals and international productions of the highest professionalism, elementary, intermediate, high school, and university productions, as well as community theater presentations, have connected generations in a way which would make Tevye understand he was, after all a very rich man. My most intimate experience with Fiddler came in the summer of 1974 when the Town of Islip staged an outdoor production at Bay Shore's South Shore Mall. As a lean and mean 22 year old I was brought in to play a Russian Cossack. My mother {owner of Dot Mackey School of Dance} was hired on as the group's choreographer. The director Jess Wynne also played Tevye. Those who worked with him still claim they have yet to see the part played better. Mom took on another challenging role in the show, the fiddler himself. Perched precariously high on scaffolding adjacent to Macy's west wall, {scared stiff she tells me now} Mom stood her spot in the night sky bravely, hovering above audience and stage from beginning to end. Asked today why she stayed up there when it was so dangerous Mom answers, "It isn't easy. Everyone of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking his neck." OK. Mom didn't say that. Tevye did. But, that's the way my mother continues to live. At age 85 Dot Mackey performs her role in life precariously yet boldly, bravely, with dignity, and good humor. How does she keep her balance you ask? Tradition. The show must go on. Home and family first. Tradition. Then and now. Tradition.