Joseph Stein (born May 30, 1912, New York City) is a Jewish-American playwright best known for his books for hit musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof, Zorba, Rags, Take Me Along, and The Baker's Wife.
Stein began as a social worker writing comedy on the side. A chance encounter led him to the Sid Caesar Show where he joined the writing team that included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin and Aaron Ruben. Richard Kollmar, husband of Dorothy Kilgallen ("What's My Line?"), asked Stein to write a musical about Pennsylvania that would promote the state on Broadway as Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma had its namesake. Stein, with his writing partner, Will Glickman, set out and among the rich heritage that included the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin, and Valley Forge. They were drawn to the Amish of Lancaster County. They purchased a 50 cent tourist book filled with Pennsylvania Dutch slang and returned to New York to write Plain and Fancy. Its central character, Jacob Yoder, the paternalistic head of the Yoder clan, faced with changes forced upon him, grows from the traditions of the past to acceptance of the future. This early study of a man of the earth struggling with his conscience and love for his family would be brought to fruition fourteen years later in Tevya, the milkman, in Stein's classic Fiddler on the Roof. Stein is married to Elisa Loti, a psychotherapist, and lives in New York City.
Plain and Fancy has been running since 1986 at The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana. The theatre's stage was dedicated to Joseph Stein in 1996. The show now runs in repertory with five additional musicals each season.
- Sketch Writer - Lend an Ear, with Will Glickman (1948)
- Sketch Writer - Alive and Kicking, with Will Glickman (1950)
- Librettist - Plain and Fancy, with Will Glickman (1955) (music by Albert Hague, lyrics by Arnold Horwitt), produced by Richard Kollmar and James W. Gardiner (in association with Yvette Schumer), directed by Morton Da Costa, starring Shirl Conway, Richard Derr, Gloria Marlowe, and debuting Barbara Cook, opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York City, January 28, 1955. 461 performances.
- Librettist - Mr. Wonderful, with Will Glickman, March 21,1956, Broadway Theatre. 383 performances.
- Librettist - (uncredited) Jamaica (1957)
- Librettist - The Body Beautiful with Will Glickman, January 23, 1958, Broadway Theatre. 60 performances.
- Librettist - Take Me Along (1959)
- Librettist - Juno (1959)
- Librettist - Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Tony and Drama Critics Circle Awards, (music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) Based on the Sholom Aleichem's stories by special permission of Arnold Perl.
- Librettist - Zorba (1968), Tony nomination and Drama Critics Circle Award
- Librettist - Irene (1973)
- Librettist - Raisin (1973)
- Librettist - The Baker's Wife (1976), London: Olivier Award
- Librettist - The King of Hearts (1978)
- Librettist - Carmelina (1979)
- Librettist - Carmelina (with Alan Jay Lerner) (1979)
- Librettist - Zorba (1983)
- Librettist - Rags (1986), Tony nomination
- Librettist - Miracles (1999-2000)
- Librettist - Over and Over (1999), now under continued development with John Kander as The Skin of Our Teeth, based on the 1943 Pulitzer Prize winning play, The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder. A reading was held January 17, 2006, in New York City, now billed as "The New Kander and Ebb Musical!" It has been renamed to All About Us. The reading featured Eartha Kitt and Karen Ziemba and was directed by Gabriel Barre. The reading was presented by Joseph Stein, John Kander, Fred Ebb Foundation, David Brown and Jacki Barlia Florin.
- Mrs. Gibbons' Boys, comedy by Will Glickman and Joseph Stein, May 4, 1949. 5 performances.
- Enter Laughing, adapted from the novel by Carl Reiner, under the direction of Gene Saks, was presented by Morton Gottlieb at Henry Miller's Theatre, New York City, March 13, 1963.
- Before the Dawn
- Enter Laughing
- Fiddler on the Roof
- Screen Writers Guild Award
Radio and TV
Numerous radio and TV shows including:
- Your Show of Shows
- The Sid Caesar Show
- Member of the Council (Executive Committee) of the Dramatists Guild since 1975