A long time ago, or perhaps not so very long ago ... there was this Jewish shtetl called Anatevka, in Russia’s vast expanses, where the milkman Tevye lived with his wife Golde and their five daughters. The three oldest, Zeitel, Hodel and Chava, were expected to marry in accordance with the venerable dictates of Jewish tradition, and to find husbands as wealthy as possible thanks to the ministrations of the matchmaker Yente.
But the daughters are headstrong in matters of love. It’s not the butcher that Zeitel falls for, but a poor tailor called Motel Kamzoil. Hodel loses her heart to the family tutor Perchik, a revolutionary, while Chava chooses an intellectual, the Orthodox Christian Fyedka. Against a background of troubles and celebrations, fear of pogroms targeting the village, Golde’s worries about the children and Tevye’s struggle for his daily bread and true piety, the girls call time-honoured traditions into question, posing tough challenges for their big-hearted father. Tevye strives to do the right thing and pardons all their crazy ideas. Well, not quite all. There are limits to his magnanimity, set by faith and tradition – for the sake of which he disowns his daughter Chava. A short time later a pogrom happens, the villagers scatter in all directions, the family is torn apart. Tevye, his kids, friends and neighbours leave Anatevka, their home, for good.