#TzeitelTuesday (4/15/14)

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye arranges to marry his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, to Lazar Wolf, the butcher; however, after the wonderfully clever “Dream” scenewherein “Grandma Tzeitel appears to bless her namesake; then Lazar Wolf’s first wife, Fruma Sarah, comes to threaten revenge if … Tevye should ‘let your daughter take my place, live in my house, carry my keys, wear my clothes'” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, pg. 108)—that arrangement is dissolved and Tzeitel is allowed to marry the man she truly loves, Motel Kamzoil, the tailor.

In 1960, while adapting some of Sholem-Aleichem’s short stories from the book Tevye’s Daughters into what would become the Broadway hit Fiddler on the Roof, librettist Joseph Stein nearly gutted one of the funniest scenes in the show. In trying “to avoid a hackneyed routine” during the scene when Tevye and Lazar are discussing Lazar’s desire to marry Tzeitel, Stein “changed the story’s comic mix-up of the two men talking at cross-purposes, Tevye thinking they are discussing the sale of a cow while the butcher thinks they are talking about his interest in marrying Tzeitel. Stein had Tevye come right out with his understanding of why Lazar wanted to see him—’You are interested in my cow'” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, pg. 107). Luckily, Stein’s partners, Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), told him that his change “made the scene seem ‘neither fish nor fowl'” and so he kept the “hackneyed routine” which led to the hilarious dialogue Fiddler fans now love to laugh about:

Lazar: I suppose you know why I wanted to see you?
Tevye: Oh, yes, I do. But there is no use talking about it.
Lazar: Tevye, I understand how you feel. But, after all, you have a few more without her.
Tevye: Ah, I see. Today you want one. Tomorrow, you may want two.
Lazar: Two? What … what would I do with two?
Tevye: The same as you do with one.
Lazar: Tevye, this is very important to me.
Tevye: Why is it so important to you?
Lazar: Frankly, because I’m lonely.
Tevye: Lonely? Reb Lazar, what are you talking about? How can a little cow keep you company?
Lazar: Little cow? Is that what you call her?
Tevye: But that’s what she is! What are you talking about?
Lazar: Don’t you know?
Tevye: Of course I know! We are talking about my new milk cow. The one you want to buy from me.
Lazar: A milk cow? A milk cow so I won’t be lonely? I’m talking about your daughter, your daughter Tzeitel.
Tevye: My daughter Tzeitel?
Lazar: Of course your daughter Tzeitel!

Below are pictures of the creative team that created Fiddler on the Roof.

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