This look at one of Broadway’s most successful, beloved and enduring musicals, as well as the silver-screen spawn helmed by (Norman Jewison) is concise, yet compendious in how a story steeped in religious tradition could be met with such enthusiasm.
Max Lewkowicz non-fiction: Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles ages behind the original Broadway production in 1964 which starred Zero Mostel (as well as Austin Pendleton and the late Bea Arthur) who played impoverished Jewish milkman dan (Tevye) with five obstinate daughters of marrying age set in imperial Russia at the turn of the 20th century.
The sense of displacement in the story from the titular metaphoric resonance again has a complicated timeliness as it did for those in Shtetls where generations had dwelled to many, many scores against their will due to deep prejudice against their heritage.
The musical’s hardness and feminism is expressed by interviewee Fran Lebowitz in spite of warm remembrances cast against a pogrom of Jews. Other talking heads include Pendleton, Harvey Fierstein, Chaim Topol, Joel Grey and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns).
Miranda reveals the personal impact of the musical lending to a splendid version of “To Life” during his nuptials for spouse Vanessa. Not to mention folks like Grinder Chadha whose Bend it like Beckham was loosely based on it.
Tales from a renowned Jewish author Sholem Aleichem inspired author Joseph Stein, not to mention living lyricist and songwriter nonagenarian Sheldon Hamick, Jerry Bock as well as director and choreographer Jerome Robbins which led to nine Tony Awards. “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise Sunset” are among the selections where insight is provided.
Seeing this celebratory Fiddler could very well be the impetus to seek it out whether on the stage or for home viewing as the long arduous trek in rapidly changing contemporary life crosses ages, classes as well as languages. An unlikely, yet galvanizing touchstone has that universal disarming quality that has many shaking their heads about it, but realizing a sunset won’t arrive anytime soon.