Was 1964 Broadway's Greatest Year for Musicals? Dolly, Fiddler, Funny Girl and Other Groundbreakers

By Robert Viagas
15 May 2014

September 22: And then, after that quiet summer (on Broadway at least), the annus mirabilis leaped back to life with another all-time Broadway classic, Fiddler on the Roof. It was classic in many ways, including the fact that it was a classic sleeper. No one had expected much. The show had no tap dancing, no chorus girls in tights—not even a parade song. But audiences of every religion and nationality found themselves moved by this story about Tevye, a Russian-Jewish milkman, who has to deal with his daughters bucking ancient tradition as the nightmare of terroristic pogroms closes in on the village of Anatevka. Zero Mostel would win the Tony Award as Tevye, and Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick songs like “Tradition,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “L’Chaim” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” became part of every theatre lover’s DNA. For many years it would be hard to find a wedding band that did not include “Sunrise, Sunset” in its repertoire. Before it was done, Fiddler would surpass both Hello, Dolly! and Life With Father to become, for a time, the longest-running show in Broadway history, at 3,242 performances.

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