To Broadway, to Life! The Musical Theater of Bock and Harnick

By Philip Lambert | Go to book overview

7
HERE IN EDEN
THE MID-1960S AND THE APPLE TREE

After Fiorello! in 1959, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick had established themselves as major contributors to the Broadway canon, and the critical acclaim of She Loves Me in 1963 had proven their range and originality, if not commercial viability. In the second half of the 1960s, however, as Fiddler on the Roof evolved from smash hit to cultural phenomenon, their stature as musicians and dramatists rose to an exclusive, iconic level. They accepted the resulting responsibilities with grace and humility. While monitoring cast changes and maintenance of Fiddler on Broadway, they also kept close watch over national tours and overseas premieres and generally did what they could to keep the show’s integrity intact. In the years to come they resisted offers to return to the Aleichem characters, notwithstanding rumors of a sequel tentatively titled Tevye in America.1 Bock said in 2002, “You won’t believe how many offers we’ve had to do Son of Fiddler, Daughter of Fiddler, Fiddler IV,” but “it wasn’t even a temptation.”2 They did have discussions in the early 2000s about a made-for-television version of Fiddler on the Roof, to be directed by Alan Ackerman and starring Victor Garber as Tevye. The project was to be financed by Disney and filmed in a Czech village, but fell apart because of security concerns and new budget-busting insurance costs in the aftermath of the tragedies of September 11, 2001. The care and feeding of Fiddler can be an all-encompassing endeavor: it is not unusual to find more than two hundred current or upcoming productions of the show, all over the world, listed on the website of its licensing organization.3

When the Fiddler explosion was just beginning to reverberate in late 1964, however, Bock and Harnick were simply looking for new ideas and projects. Their next major effort, their sixth as a team, would premiere on Broadway as The Apple Tree in the fall of 1966. Amidst the twists and turns of the new show’s development they also found time to make smaller contributions to other new Broadway productions, to create a new television musical, and to

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