A sparkling and eye-opening history of the Broadway musical that changed the world
In the half-century since its premiere, Fiddler on the Roof has had an astonishing global impact. Beloved by audiences the world over, performed from rural high schools to grand state theaters, Fiddler is a supremely potent cultural landmark.
In a history as captivating as its subject, award-winning drama critic Alisa Solomon traces how and why the story of Tevye the milkman, the creation of the great Yiddish writer Sholem-Aleichem, was reborn as blockbuster entertainment and a cultural touchstone, not only for Jews and not only in America. It is a story of the theater, following Tevye from his humble appearance on the New York Yiddish stage, through his adoption by leftist dramatists as a symbol of oppression, to his Broadway debut in one of the last big book musicals, and his ultimate destination—a major Hollywood picture.
Solomon reveals how the show spoke to the deepest conflicts and desires of its time: the fraying of tradition, generational tension, the loss of roots. Audiences everywhere found in Fiddler immediate resonance and a usable past, whether in Warsaw, where it unlocked the taboo subject of Jewish history, or in Tokyo, where the producer asked how Americans could understand a story that is "so Japanese."
Rich, entertaining, and original, Wonder of Wonders reveals the surprising and enduring legacy of a show about tradition that itself became a tradition.
Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles.
After Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway in 1964, it became the longest-running show of its day, winning Tony Awards in nine categories in 1965. NPR called it one of the "100 most important American musical works of all time," and the American Film Institute named the movie version one of the "100 most inspiring films of all times." Long after Sholem Aleichem wrote a story in 1894 featuring Tevye the milkman, the tale about Jewish identity, the conflict between generations, and the deep importance of community and family lives on in several hundred annual theatrical performances by local theaters, and the movie version spawned numerous kitschy keepsakes as well as a MAD magazine parody. In this flat study, drama critic Solomon traces in exhaustive and exhausting detail the life of Aleichem's story from its earliest production to its time on Broadway and subsequent movie version, covering its production and reception abroad as well. She carefully describes Jerome Robbins's direction and choreography, and his brilliant casting of Zero Mostel as Tevye, as well as Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick's (lyrics) contribution of such songs as "Sabbath's Prayer," "Tevye's Dream," and "Sunrise, Sunset" to the world of popular music. Although Solomon's telling lacks cohesion, she nevertheless captures the fascination and wonder that Fiddler on the Roof continues to exert over us.
Fascinating, if at times pedantic, account of the making of the seminal Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. The first section is slow, but important, detailing earlier attempts to bring the Sholem Aleichem stories to the theater. But it really takes off after that.