American Musicals, Russian Contexts

From Fiddler on the Roof to Chess to Great Comet to Anastasia, Russia has appeared as a recurring setting for several Broadway musicals, 3 of which recently played the Great White Way. Get a glimpse of the various ways Russian music, politics, geography, and culture have been represented within American musical theatre below.

Fiddler on the Roof (2015 revival)

Written by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein, Fiddler on the Roof follows Tevye, his wife Golde, and their five daughters during a time of cultural and political change in Imperial Russia in the early 1900s. While Tevye and Golde struggle to maintain their Jewish traditions in the face of their young daughters’ changing ideals, the Jewish community at large is faced with a government growing hostile towards their religion and culture.

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 (2016)

Based on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Dave Malloy’s electropop opera follows Natasha and Pierre as they search for love and meaning. Set in Moscow in 1812, Great Comet portrays Russia just before the French invasion, combining Russian folk music with rock and EDM genres.

Anastasia (2017)

Based on the 1997 Disney film of the same name, Anastasia follows Anya, an orphan suffering from amnesia who journeys from Russia to Paris to figure out if she is the Grand Duchess of Russia. The show portrays Russia in a time of political turbulence and government changes. Written by Terrence McNally and composing-duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Anastasia is currently playing at the Broadhurst Theatre.