Of Pop Music and Puppetry

This short video features an amateur production of “Tradition,” the iconic opening number from Fiddler on the Roof performed entirely by hand puppets lipsyncing to the 1967 Original London Cast Recording of the show. Although created in 2006, the shaky quality of this video gives the performance a flavor that feels like a home movie from several decades prior. Although none of the puppeteers are actually singing, the puppets convincingly mime four part harmonies, with each group—the Papas, the Mamas, the Sons, and the Daughters—singing perfectly on cue. A closer look at the other videos produced by this YouTube user reveals that Fiddler is in good, if unexpected company, alongside pop song parodies such as acapella versions of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and songs by U2, Tom Jones, Alanis Morrisette, Miley Cyrus, and others. The presence of “Tradition” in such a list belies the Fiddler’s status as a thoroughly American text and one so immediately recognizable that its parody can be enjoyed by the audience without any further contextualization.