For the past decade, Hollywood has been in the middle of a resurgence of movie musicals, particularly Broadway adaptations with a sprinkling of original musicals in between.
The next Broadway musical to get the feature film treatment is Fiddler on the Roof and it has an impressive team behind it with Thomas Kail set to direct. The Broadway veteran has a close working relationship with Lin-Manuel Miranda having directed the stage versions of Hamilton and In the Heights. He also directed the Grease Live! TV special and FX’s Fosse/Verdon miniseries about the legendary partnership between choreographer Bob Fosse and dancer Gwen Verdon. Kail will also be producing the film adaptation alongside Dan Jinks and Aaron Harnick. Steven Levenson, who was the showrunner and co-creator of Fosse/Verdon with Kail and wrote the stage musical Dear Evan Hansen, will be in charge of writing the script.
The story follows the Jewish peasants, Tevye and Golde, and their family living in pre-revolution Russia in the early 1900s. They have five daughters and the eldest are of marrying age, with the village matchmaker, Yente, trying to pair them off. But the heart wants what the heart wants and Tevye learns it’s not so easy to marry off headstrong daughters when their hearts are elsewhere. As the girls introduce radical outside ideas and influences into their family and the community, Tevye struggles to hold onto traditions in the face of upheaval and the coming revolution.
The original Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway in 1964 with a book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick – if you noticed the repeated surname, that’s because he’s Aaron Harnick’s uncle. That run, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, was nominated for 10 Tonys and went on to win nine: Best Musical, Best Book, Best Producer, Best Director, Best Lead Actor, Best Featured Actress, Best Composer & Lyricist, Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.
Other Broadway adaptations have been equally well-received, as well as film adaptations. The 1971 movie adaptation was the highest-grossing feature film of that year. It went on to be nominated for eight Oscars, winning three for cinematography, sound, and John Williams’ win for music.
Levenson spoke to the timeliness of putting the essential Jewish story on the screen in a statement, saying
“Fiddler On The Roof was the first piece of theater I saw, at the age of 5. Today, more than 50 years after it changed the face of Broadway forever, the story of Tevye and his beloved village of Anatevka feels more timely than ever. I am beyond grateful to Mike DeLuca and MGM, Dan Jinks, and Aaron Harnick for the opportunity to tell this unforgettable story of resilience and hope in the face of hopelessness, and I am delighted to be collaborating again with the inimitable Tommy Kail.”
Now we wait to see if they’ll populate the movie adaptation with Broadway stars or turn to Hollywood A-listers to fill the roles of Tevye, Golde and their family.