I have been in two separate productions of Fiddler on the Roof. The first one was a production at an all-girl’s Catholic school in Detroit in which I played the role of Lazar Wolf. There’s quite a story there, but that’s not the one I want to tell today.
Many years later, in my penultimate appearance on the Detroit stage before moving to Chicago, I was cast in another production of Fiddler, this time in the role of the Russian Constable. It was then that I discovered this little-known, unsuspected fact about that show: The role of the Russian Constable is in fact the best role in the show.
“Pshaw!” I hear you scoffing – surely Motel the Tailor, or the aforementioned Lazar Wolf, or – duh – Tevye himself are better roles. But no, my children, this is not the case. Allow me to explain:
The Russian Constable first appears in a scene early on, a trifle of a scene that involves only Tevye and the Constable. Nothing too strenuous occurs, but it serves to introduce the audience to the character for future reference. After that, the actor playing the Constable has about 2 hours to sit in the dressing room flirting and having a good time. And then, near the end of the show, he gets to go onstage for one more scene in which he pulls all the focus to himself and delivers the line, “I’m sorry Tevye – but you must all leave Anatevka!”
Yeah, after a night of mostly kicking back, the Constable gets to be the Big Bad Guy who delivers the Big Bad Line that sets the last scene of the show in motion, when all of the good folks of Anatevka are hitting the road for parts known & unknown.
So there’s my advice for you actors out there – if you show up for Fiddler auditions somewhere, the director may try to sell you on agreeing to play some “leading” role. He/she might make it sound awfully nice. But don’t be taken in. Since this secret I’ve just shared is not widely known, there won’t be a lot of competition for the role of the Constable, so this could be your chance to pick off one of the great roles in the musical theater catalog.