Adore the film and are now wondering: where was “Fiddler on the Roof” filmed? At Peerspace, we get it! Best known as a beloved Broadway musical, just mentioning “Fiddler on the Roof” brings forth joy, singing, and likely some bittersweet tears.
The important family story seems lighthearted on the one hand. However, it also touches on sticky issues that still permeate contemporary society, like anti-Semitism, classism, and romantic liberty. Ahead, we check out all the amazing filming locations that brought the movie to life.
What is “Fiddler on the Roof”?
Upon opening in 1964, the stage version of “Fiddler” enjoyed one of the longest Broadway musical runs of all time – only to be beat out by “Grease” about 10 years later. It won nine Tony Awards during its 3,000 original performances.
It’s also been revived countless times since then, in theatre houses all over the world. The play is based on Yiddish short stories by Sholem Aleichem, featuring vignettes about the everyday life of Tevye the Milkman.
In 1971, the play’s silver screen adaptation hit the movie theatres. With Norman Jewison at the direction helm, the film stayed remarkably true to the stage script. And, like the Broadway production, critics and fans alike loved it.
It was nominated for a respectable five Academy Awards and won three – Best Cinematography; Best Sound; Best Music, Scoring Adaptation, and Original Song Score. While the coveted Best Picture award eluded the fiddler, the film remains a cinematic treasure.
Special Christmas Eve “Fiddler” singalongs are growing in popularity in big cities around the world. You can bet that everyone in the audience knows every word to every song – or they’re about to learn! It’s tradition, after all! (See what we did there?)
The plot at first seems like a narrative account of the daily experiences of a poor Ukrainian Jewish family. But powerful themes of discrimination, cultural preservation, and Jewish ethnic erasure punctuate the story.
The basic gist is this – milkman Reb Tevye struggles to meet the needs of his five daughters and his wife, Golde. The family is preparing a traditional Sabbath meal and awaiting the arrival of the local matchmaker, Yente, who is ready to arrange a wedding between the oldest daughter and a wealthy local older gentleman.
This does not go well, and the oldest daughter ends up defying cultural norms and marrying her true love, who is not a man of means. While not thrilled about it, dad approves this union because he wants to keep his daughter happy.
The second act
Act 2 similarly sees another daughter marrying for love, eschewing the tradition of arranged marriage. While Reb reluctantly approves her decision, he rejects a third daughter’s plea to marry outside the faith. She does so anyway, and Reb considers her to be dead to him from then on.
In the end, the Russia Czar invades the village. The family is sent into exile, along with so many other Jews. During this time, Tevye and his lineage are forced to flee to Poland, a Siberian prison colony, and to the United States.
No one knows what happens to the family members after they disburse to the US and Poland – there was no sequel to the story. We can hope that Reb Tevye became a rich man after all.
“Fiddler on the Roof” symbology
According to some film theorists, the fiddler on the roof is symbolic of precarious fragility of the Jews and Judaism in general in the face of prejudice, war, and genocide. So, it makes sad sense that a fiddler character follows the Tevye family offstage, out of the village, playing traditional violin music as the curtain falls.
Where did they film “Fiddler”?
So where was “Fiddler on the Roof” filmed? The film’s lavish visual aesthetic counters the sparse simplicity of the family’s day-to-day lives.
The story is set in the Ukrainian shtetl called Anatevka, a village where Orthodox Christians and Jews live as neighbors. However, they mostly filmed in the capital city of Zagreb, Croatia, in a tiny central Croatian township called Mala Gorica, and the darling village of Lekenik.
It was the Croatian film producer Branko Lustig – an Auschwitz prison survivor – who led director Norman Jewison and location scouts to the cute-as-a-button village. It is now known far and wide for its leading role as Anatevka.
Lekenik has used its power of fame for good, housing organizations such as The SOS Village for children without parents. Every year, the children perform an educational play inspired by “Fiddler on the Roof” to educate their fellow Croatians about Jewish heritage, meanwhile gaining a deeper understanding of the art of theatre.
Other locations where they filmed “Fiddler on the Roof” include a couple scenes in London – although this is up for debate. Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England, though, was definitely a filming location for various parts of the film. The studio has been operational for more than 85 years, and has hosted the production of literally thousands of movies and television shows.
Host a “Fiddler”-themed event
Are you interested in hosting a “Fiddler on the Roof” singalong or maybe a small Sabbath dinner to commemorate the story?
Check Peerspace, where you can rent fun and authentic venues by the hour. Peerspace is the internet’s largest marketplace to source unique venues of all types, including this rustic cabin in San Bernadino, California. Here, you could host a small dinner at the long, wooden table. It might not look like an Eastern European shtetl, but it gives that rustic, familial vibe of community.
If you want to host a commemorative singalong, then rent this pretty Kansas City open-concept dinner theatre space (pictured above). Up to 300 people can run through their favorites and close with “Sunrise, Sunset”. Here’s a link to the tune in case you need to practice ahead of time.