The Stories that Inspired Fiddler on the Roof

A former professor of music and humanities at Macomb Community College in Clinton Township, Michigan, Ellen Bowen was responsible for increasing the enrollment of the school’s voice, jazz, and musical theater programs. Ellen Bowen now serves as the music director of Grosse Point Community Theatre, where she has mounted productions of several musicals, including Fiddler on the Roof.

A musical released in 1964, Fiddler on the Roof was a collaborative effort, with book by Joseph Stein, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock. The show’s original Broadway production was a massive hit and has the distinction of being the first to surpass 3,000 performances. The show held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for nearly a decade.

Fiddler on the Roof was mainly influenced by a series of stories called Tevye and his Daughters. The series was written by Sholem Aleichem — sometimes referred to as the Jewish Mark Twain — and was published in Yiddish between the years 1894 and 1914. The stories involved the lives of people in a Jewish village in Russia just before the 20th century.