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Stein, Joseph


STEIN, JOSEPH (1912– ), U.S. dramatist. Born in New York City, Stein grew up in the Bronx. His father, a Polish immigrant, read him the stories of *Shalom Aleichem, and Stein would later remember them when he developed the musical Fiddler on the Roof. Earlier, Stein graduated from the City College of New York and earned a master of social work degree from Columbia University. He spent the next six years as a psychiatric social worker. In 1946 Stein began writing for radio, and two years later he and a writing partner, Will Glickman, began contributing sketches to Broadway revues. Stein was also a writer for the comedian Sid *Caesar's television shows. One of his first works for Broadway was the musical Plain and Fancy (1955), about the adventures of a pair of sophisticated New Yorkers living among the Amish in Pennsylvania. Then came Mr. Wonderful (1956), a vehicle for Sammy *Davis Jr., and, with Sheldon Harnick, the musical Body Beautiful (1958). In 1959 it was Take Me Along, an original musical, and in 1963, Enter Laughing, a comedy. Stein then produced the book (and Harnick and *Jerry Bock the music) for Fiddler (1964), the story of Tevye the milkman and his five daughters that played on Broadway, first with Zero *Mostel in the starring role, until 1972. It was revived on Broadway four times in the next 32 years, was made into a movie starring Chaim *Topol, the Israeli star, and spawned productions all over the world, including such unlikely venues as Japan. Audiences devoured the music ("If I Were a Rich Man," "Sunrise, Sunset") and related to the universal truths espoused by a poor Jew in the fictional shtetl of Anatevka, where the Jews' lives were as shaky as that of a fiddler on a roof. Stein won the Tony Award and Drama Critics Circle Award for Fiddler. His other musicals included Zorba (1968), for which he received a Tony nomination; Rags (1986), another Tony nomination; and The Baker's Wife, which won the Laurence Olivier award in London. He also wrote the screenplays for Enter Laughing and for Fiddler on the Roof.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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