King of Broadway

February 1, 1972


Fiddler on the Roof debuted in September 1964, and over the next eight years proved a bona-fide blockbuste­r. It cost only $375,000 ($3.2 million in current dollars) to stage and took in close to $60 million (nearly $450 million today) at the box office. That performanc­e made it the second-most-profitable musical ever at that point, behind only My Fair Lady. “I didn’t see how it could fail,” said Hal Prince, Fiddler’s producer. “There are at least 3 million Jews in New York, and I thought that should be enough to keep the show running.” Prince, who was the driving force behind such hits as West Side Story and Cabaret, had his share of flops too, including Baker Street, a Sherlock Holmes musical that premiered in 1965. But he needn’t have worried too much about his investors. “Show business offers psychic returns

no oil well can match,” as Forbes put it, “and for many investors it may almost be enough to be able to say, ‘Oh yes, I own a piece of that show.’ ”

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