The place is Anatevka, a village in Tsarist Russia. The time is 1905, the eve of the revolution. The musical opens with the haunting strains of a fiddler perched precariously on a roof. Despite the danger of slipping off the roof, the fiddler merrily plays on.
Tevye, a humble milkman, shuffles forth to explain that the villages, too, live precariously. “You may ask, how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word…tradition.” Introducing his wife and five daughters, the matchmaker Yente, the butcher, Lazar Wolf, the Rabbi, and all of the close-knit townspeople, Tevye explains that it is the longstanding traditions of their village, culture, and religion that steady and guide the people of Anatevka.
Tevye’s three eldest daughters, knowing they have no dowries, consider their fates in “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.” Unbeknownst to her father, Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeitel, has fallen in love with the poor tailor of the village, Motel Kamzoil. Tradition dictates that these things be arranged and Yente has arranged a wedding between Tzeitel and Lazar Wolf, a rich man old enough to be her father.
After another arduous day during which his horse has gone lame Tevye pauses briefly to converse with God and to luxuriate in the daydream, “If I Were A Rich Man.” Later, Tevye trudges homeward with the setting sun to join his family and the entire village in the “Sabbath Prayer.”
On behalf of his daughter, Tevye strikes a bargain with Lazar Wolf, and in the local barroom, the two lead an exuberant dance “To Life,” to celebrate the upcoming marriage.
The next day Tzeitel pleads with Tevye not to force her to go through with the wedding. Although bound by tradition to honor his agreement, kind-hearted Tevye agrees to let Tzeitel marry the man she loves, the poor tailor, Motel Kamzoil, who rejoices in “Miracle of Miracles.” Knowing that he will have trouble persuading his shrewish wife to agree to the change in groom, Tevye plays upon Golde’s superstitions and pretends to have a dream in which Golde’s deceased Grandma Tzeitel appears and sanctions “The Tailor, Motel Kamzoil” as a suitor for Tzeitel.
Wide-eyed and astonished, Golde listens to Tevye’s recounting of his “dream” and, as Tevye had hoped, she immediately interprets the dream to mean that Tzeitel must break her engagement with Lazar Wolf and marry Motel instead. Tzeitel and Motel’s wedding begins simply and touchingly with the traditional ceremony, including the breaking of the wine glass by the couple. In the song “Sunrise, Sunset,” Tevye and Golde share their mutual amazement that their little girl has grown up so fast as Hodel and Perchik, the young radical, begin to notice their own feelings for each other. This poignant mood is soon replaced by a a boisterous dance in which the men of the village demonstrate their skill at the “Bottle Dance.” Once again, traditions crumble when the men and women dance together in the “Wedding Dance.”
Unfortunately, the celebration is marred when the Constable arrives, flanked by soldiers, to notify the joyful group that he is required to stage a “little unofficial demonstration.” Suddenly and violently, furniture is broken, wedding gifts are destroyed, and villagers are injured. Distraught by the turn in events, Tevye can only turn his face towards heaven to ask God, “Why?”
In the second act of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, the story continues to follow Tevye’s reaction to his daughters’ romances and his attempts to reconcile the changes in traditions that are taking place, not only in the world, but in his immediate family.
Now that Tzeitel is happily married to the man of her choosing, Hodel, Tevye’s second daughter, defies tradition by telling her father that she intends to marry Perchik. The couple asks Tevye for his blessing, rather than his permission. Infuriated, Tevye believes that, according to tradition, he should have influence over his daughter’s choice of a husband. “On the other hand,” he realizes that the match will bring his daughter happiness, so he gives them his blessing and his permission.
After Tevye leaves, Perchik rejoices his good fortune, admitting to Hodel, “Now I Have Everything.’ Confused by the changes taking place in his world, Tevye for the first time asks Golde “Do You Love Me?” Eventually, Hodel’s strong love for Perchik compels her to leave her family and travel “Far from the Home I Love” in order to be with her beloved in Siberia.
Chava, the third daughter, secretly begins to see a young Russian gentile, Fyedka. Although Tevye has weathered the unexpected courtships of Tzeitel and Hodel with dignity, he is unable to tolerate this further and more radical defiance of tradition. Chava’s contemplation of marrying outside of the Jewish faith is a violation of his religious beliefs, and Tevye vehemently forbids her to continue the relationship with Fyedka. When she persists, Tevye, who can bend no farther, banishes her from the family, refusing to acknowledge Chava as his daughter.
By this time, the Tsar has ordered that all Jews evacuate their homes, and the village reluctantly begins to pack their belongings. Knowing that she may never see her parents and sisters again, Chava returns briefly for a final reconciliation, explaining that Fyedka and she are also moving away from Anatevka because they cannot remain amongst people who treat others with such callousness.
Although Golde cannot challenge her husband’s edict to ignore Chava’s overtures, Tzeitel consoles her younger sister by pulling away from the family group to embrace Chava. This simple, but meaningful, gesture signals that Chava is still welcomed by her family, in spite of her strained relationship with her father. At first reluctantly, and later willingly, Tevye approaches his daughter and says, “God be with you.” His love for his daughters, once again overcomes his stubborn belief in tradition.
As the family and villagers depart for their new immigrant destinations, the fiddler plays his theme once more, and beckoned by Tevye, leaps to the ground to join Tevye and his family as they leave Anatevka and travel on to the new world, America. .
I have never read the original story but after watching the theater , Iam looking for the it.