Traditions in a Changing Landscape: “Fiddler on the Roof” Presents a Story of Faith, Family and Heritage

This rendition of the classic musical presents a take on the traditional story fit for modern audiences

Since its debut on the Broadway stage in 1964 and its film production in 1971, “Fiddler on the Roof” has enjoyed an international audience. The plot, characters and iconic music have remained favorites among the musical’s fanbase. Opening on January 20, BYU’s rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof” will be presented by the Theatre and Media Arts department as it takes on this classic tale and engages in the story’s traditions for a modern audience.

“I thought it would be something that the community here would really be able to relate to,” said director David Morgan. “I’ve always really liked the story and what it has to say about the change[s] that need to come [with] the world changing around us.”

Morgan’s vision with the musical was to make the design more stylized than literal, as has been done in other productions of “Fiddler on the Roof.” While this take on the classic story strays from the traditional portrayal of the production, Morgan hopes that the cast and crew have struck a balance between the realistic scenes and the modern stylization.

Peter Morgan as Tevye. Photo credit: Joey Garrison, BYU Photo

“I wanted it to be more suggestive of [the traditional design],” said Morgan, “Hopefully we created a balance between those two.”

While the design will be more modern, the cast will portray the musical’s cultural roots in the language spoken on stage. Ben Butters, the dialect coach for the production, has been coaching the acting students how to speak in a Yiddish dialect—a surprisingly rare practice for theatre performances.

“As I have worked on Fiddler, I’ve been surprised to find that it is rare for a production to use dialects as part of the performance,” said Butters. “The use of the Yiddish dialect brings an authenticity to the production, and grounds it in reality.”

Peter Morgan, who plays Tevye the milkman in the production, said that speaking the specific dialect has helped him to present an authentic portrayal of his character.

“I think for any story that you put on through theater—especially if you have one that is as meaningful or as specific to a community like ‘Fiddler’—it is really nice to try to be as authentic to it as possible to honor the people that it’s based off of,” he said.

Sage Patchin as Hodel, Bronwyn Reed as Tzeitel and Emma Larsen as Chava. Photo credit: Joey Garrison, BYU Photo

Nikole York, who plays Tevye’s wife Golde, added that her experience with learning the Yiddish dialect, while difficult, was a good way to overcome stereotypes.

“[Learning the dialect has] been more difficult for some people and less difficult for others,” York said. “Sometimes it’s one of those technical things that you have to focus on. But I also think it makes it so that we’re not doing Jewish caricatures. . . . I think it gives us a degree of credibility.”

As the musical is performed for a modern audience, the director and cast agreed that its messages about family, faith, community and tradition are just as relevant now as they were over 50 years ago.

“I think [the musical] has something to say to what’s going on with . . . people not being sidelined and not being accepted,” said Morgan. “I think it has something that’s very universal.”

York added that the characters’ “flexibility and inflexibility [in regard to their traditions] gives us a gauge of how we can grow and accept change.”

For an evening of music, dance and tradition, don’t miss out on “Fiddler on the Roof”!

For ticket information, visit arts.byu.edu.


“Fiddler on the Roof”

de Jong Concert Hall

January 20–22 & 25–29 at 7:30 p.m.

January 22 & 29 at 2:00 p.m.

ASL Interpreted January 27

Post-show discussion January 27

Following the recent rise in local and national COVID-19 cases, BYU will be requiring attendees of indoor public events on campus (athletics, performing arts, conferences and symposiums) to present proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to gain access to the event venue. 

All patrons are required to wear a mask while indoors at campus performance venues, regardless of vaccination status.

For details about the updated COVID-19 policy, visit arts.byu.edu.