In the picturesque Ukranian village of Anatevha lives Tevye, an impoverished milkman with five unmarried daughters and a sharp-tongued wife to support. As Tevye remonstrates with God for allowing his scrawny horse to go lame, and for not filling his pockets with gold, his wife, Golde, takes more direct steps towards improving their lot. Golde consults with Yente, the village matchmaker, about the prospects of good marriages for her older daughters. Unfortunately, the daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava, don't listen to their mother's advice when they fall in love.
However, these family troubles suddenly become insignificant when the corrupt Czarist regime turns against the pious and highly moral Jews of Anatevka. As the violent castigation of the pogroms sweeps across the Ukraine, Tevye, his family, his friends and neighbours, are faced with a choice of losing their lives or losing their homeland.