John Preece has had more wives than he can remember. But before anyone starts thinking he's some sort of extreme polygamist, know that those wives are the women who have played opposite him in various productions of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Preece, 64, has devoted much of his career as an actor to the role of Tevye the milkman, a character inspired by the stories of Sholem Aleichem. Preece has followed in the footsteps of Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Theodore Bikel, Topol, Alfred Molina and Harvey Fierstein, all of whom enjoyed success playing Tevye.
“I started performing in ‘Fiddler on the Roof' back in 1970, first as Lazar Wolf and then as Tevye,” Preece said recently. “When I was in my 20s and 30s, I naturally carried myself differently. Now, after countless performances, I've really grown into the role.”
“Fiddler on the Roof” is often considered the last musical produced during what is widely referred to as the golden age of the musical theater. The original production, which opened on Broadway in September 1964, ran for nearly eight years and became the longest-running musical of its era.
Featuring a score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, “Fiddler on the Roof” made hits of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Tradition.” In addition to winning Tony Awards for Bock and Harnick's tune-filled score, “Fiddler” earned an additional eight Tonys including one as best musical of the season. “Fiddler” has returned to Broadway for revivals mounted in 1976, 1981, 1990 and 2004.
While Tevye is the musical's main
“Many actors think this is a one-man show and go after it for their own glory,” Preece said. “That's not fair to the others. ‘Fiddler' is an ensemble piece. Without the other characters, there wouldn't be much going on.”