The Fiddler under the microscope

It is always fascinating how alive and vibrant a production appears on the stage. Often it is the handiwork of a good script, excellent actors, brilliant set and costume designs or a combination of all the elements. It is in the production of "Fiddler on the Roof' that all the elements are utilized. In the past, when I have viewed the film, I simply noticed the Fiddler on the Roof, the actual Fiddler at the beginning of the production. He never speaks and yet Tevye wants the audience to notice him in both film and stage productions. It was in reviewing the play that an interesting theory came to mind.

In the opening of the musical, the Fiddler is on the roof, his image silhouetted against the stage. He is physically real yet the image is a shadow. He slips away so quietly off the roof the audience never seems to notice. The Fiddler is presented as carefree, simply sitting on a roof, never having to worry. The antithesis, however, is seen in Tevye, who being a poor dairyman must worry about providing for his family. His desire for a carefree lifestyle is viewed in songs such as "If I Were a Rich Man" and "To Life."

It is to be theorized that the Fiddler is a form of an alter ego for Tevye. He wants to be carefree, he has a wonderful imagination exemplified in The Dream Scene and he yearns for respect and acceptance from his wife and daughters. In scene one, act two, it is revealed that Tevye did not meet Golde until their wedding day and in a touching song he asks, "Do You Love Me?" After debating, Golde responds that she does.

In a time of crisis, the Fiddler appears again, all in black and dances around Tevye as he plays the fiddle. It is possibly during this time that Tevye longs to break free and join the carefree of the world.

At the end of the musical, Tevye and his family are leaving Anatevka, a town which contains part of Tevye's name, a symbol of his roots. The Fiddler appears for a final time and Tevye motions for him to come along. It is the family of Tevye that is departing and by this gesture the Fiddler is seen as a part of the family, a part of Tevye, the dream he does not wish to leave behind.

Granted, many views can be constructed as to the importance of the Fiddler. He holds the carefree joy that Tevye desires and, it is hoped, finds.

. Deborah Joyce Williams