From Stage to Screen
Best known as a Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof has been delighting audiences for almost half a century with its blend of boisterous and mournful melodies. The Tony award winning story of Tevye, the humble milkman with five young daughters and a feisty wife, has played out thousands of times on the stages of Broadway, London’s West End and in theatres all around the world.
With such a popular stage play it was inevitable that a movie version would be made and in 1971 Norman Jewison directed a highly successful big screen adaptation of the Fiddler story. Jewison’s film featured most of the well-loved songs while the famous musician Isaac Stern provided the haunting violin solos.
Location, Location, Location
The choice of filming location was an interesting one. The story is set in Anatevka, a small shtetl (village) in Czarist Russian not far from Kiev. While now part of Ukraine, at the time of filming the area was deep into the Soviet Union and not the most practical place to shoot an American-made movie. A setting was needed that would resemble that turn of the century look of a Eastern European village. In addition a synagogue had to be constructed as part of the set that was a faithful reproduction of a 1905 Ukrainian synagogue; Robert Boyle, the production designer of Fiddler, looked at over 100 Ukrainian synagogues in his quest for absolute authenticity.
The small towns of Lekenik and Mala Gorica near Croatia's capital Zagreb were chosen to represent Anatevka and for the duration of the movie makers’ presence in town were transformed into 1905 Russian villages. In truth, such a transition was probably not as complicated as its sounds. The buildings of Lekenik were made of wood and very much in the style of the houses that would have stood in Ukraine at the start of the 20th century. The production team took advantage of the fact that things change very slowly in the rural landscapes of Eastern Europe.
Visiting Croatia Today
Take a vacation in Croatia now and you’re likely to enjoy the finest, most modern hotel facilities and some of the Mediterranean’s finest seafood. But if you take a trip into the rural inland areas of Croatia, you may find your mind going back to another age; to a time where five daughters were proving more than a handful for a certain troubled milkman!