Sunday, November 7, 2010

He Made Me Want To Diddle My Deedle

"If I were a rich man. diddle diddle deedle diddle die." A comment made by Tevya to The Lord.

I lust for this part.  It has become my deepest desire.  But, I am scared to death to play it; for so many good men have donned the personae of  the Russian milk-man and I am fearful of botching it.


Let me back up a bit.

Jerry Bock died Wednesday of complications from a stroke.

He was 81.

It was he and Sheldon Harnick that prompted me to attempt the diddling of the aforementioned.

Not only myself, but countless men have wished to don work boots, make-up stained tunic( with a vest), trousers,  artfully crumpled hat and prayer shawl and prance about the stage, arguing with God and expressing a very logical desire to be a rich man. Not only men such as myself but, according to Jason Robert Brown, creator of the Broadway hit "The Last Five Years" even a gay midget named Karl.

In Ohio.

Bock and Harnick more or less owned Broadway from 1958 to 1970, writing such hits as the Pulitzer Prize winning "Fiorello" (which we talked about a few weeks ago at the passing of Tom Bosley) "She Loves Me' and "Fiddler On The Roof" which debuted in 1964 and has become the staple of  high school (even elementary school) music teachers and directors.

The premise seems, at first, far from the flamboyancy of  musical gems such as "My Fair Lady", or "West Side Story" and yet this tale, based on the works of Yiddish writer Scholom Aleichem and a book by Joseph Stein (incidentally, Stein died just a week before Bock!); plunks us down in the fictional little Russian town of Anatevka at the turn of the last century and holds our attention from the first note the shaky fiddler strokes to the final scene as the town, now suffering, once again, a dysprosium and scattering of His chosen people, straggles off stage, following the now grounded fiddler..

I have often wished for a family background filled with some sort of diverse ethnicity then the white-bread, Anglo-Saxon ancestry I bear.  I'm not belittling the Locke or Heath clans. It's only` genealogy envy..

We always think the family on the other side of the fence sounds spicier.

"Fiddler" (as it is often called) is crammed with color and foot stomping exhilaration. The tunes arrange themselves in your mind in such a way that you will never forget them. If you come from the place I grew up, it opens vast windows of cultural panoramas and tableau's of places you have never imagined..

The show spawned an Oscar award winning movie and Grammy for best soundtrack. It has become a cultural phenomena, appearing in the strangest of places. (ie: the endi

ng of "The Bob Newhart Show" when the entire Vermont town Bob dreamed of left our tv screen with the strains of "Avatevka" playing in the back-ground.)

Jerry Bock used his knowledge of the Yiddish theater and clarinet led klezmer bands as a launching pad for "Fiddler" and we were blessed with music for the ages.

Thank you, Jerry. May you stand beside the heavenly fiddler and
                                                                direct His notes.

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