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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It Started With A Fifteen Dollar Idea

In the early 40's Joseph Stein had a career as a social worker for several years. Then he happened to meet the comedian Zero Mostel through a mutual friend. Mr. Mostel mentioned that he was looking for comedy material for a radio show, Mr. Stein threw out an idea, and Mr. Mostel paid him $15 for it. His writing career had begun. In 1948, Mr. Stein made his Broadway writing debut, creating a single sketch with Mr. Glickman for “Lend an Ear,” a musical revue that starred Carol Channing and was choreographed by Gower Champion. And he became part of the writing staff of Sid Caesar’s classic 1950s comedy-variety series “Your Show of Shows.” He won glowing reviews for his book of “Enter Laughing,” a comedy, based on a book by Carl Reiner, about a Jewish boy who wants to become an actor. In 1964 Joseph Stein's  "Fiddler On The Roof" opened on Broadway, a musical based on Sholem Aleichem’s short stories about a Jewish milkman and his family who face terrifying change in a small Russian village in 1905.  Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics and Jerry Bock’s score captured the high notes of the praise, but Mr. Stein’s book hardly went unnoticed. Joseph Stein died last Sunday in Manhattan. He was 98.

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