In the first version of Fiddler on the Roof that Jerome Robbins read — which, by the way, was not the first draft written for the project by Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock, and Sheldon Harnick — there was a “touching musical plea from Tzeitel begging not to have to marry the butcher” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 136). Titled “Poppa Help Me,” the song never made it into the final version of the show, and I cannot find any mention of it outside of Wonder of Wonders, but if anyone can find it, I’d love to at least read the lyrics if not actually hear it.
In the musical version that we know today, Tzeitel’s plea to Tevye that she not be forced to marry Lazar Wolf, the butcher, is more subdued than a full song but is no less powerful:
Well, Tzeitel, my child, why are you so silent? Aren’t you happy with this blessing?
(Bursts into tears)
Oh, Papa, Papa …
What is it? Tell me?
Papa, I don’t want to marry him. I can’t marry him. I can’t …
What do you mean, you can’t? If I say you will, you will.
Papa, if it’s a matter of money, i’ll do anything. I’ll hire myself out as a servant. I’ll dig ditches, I’ll haul rocks, only don’t make me marry him, Papa, please.
What’s wrong with Lazar? He likes you.
Papa, I will be unhappy with him. All my life will be unhappy. I’ll dig ditches, I’ll haul rocks.
But we made an agreement. With us an agreement is an agreement.
Is that more important than I am, Papa? Papa, don’t force me. I’ll be unhappy all my days.”
That her spoken pleas are so straightforward is unsurprising, since Jerome Robbins wanted Joseph Stein to make it clear to audiences “who Tzeitel is, ‘what she is, what she wants, and what she is like” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 164). Given that she lost an entire song to convey her desires, the above dialogue certainly cuts right to the quick of it.