Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles review – story that raised the roof everywhere

Surprising revelations and praise from famous fans add to the appeal of this documentary about the world-conquering Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof

Director Max Lewkowicz’s richly detailed documentary celebrates the illustrious Broadway show Fiddler on the Roof, the evergreen shtetl-set musical first staged in 1964 with choreography and direction by Jerome Robbins and starring Zero Mostel as Teyve, the milkman.

Contributions from a range of interviewees – including people attached to the original production, such as producer Hal Prince and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, and famous fans of the show, including Fran Lebowitz and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda – help to structure the history lesson about how Fiddler became a massive international hit. That account is filled out with footage of recent productions from around the world, including one in Japanese and one by some African American high-school kids in Brooklyn, as well as the 1971 film version, starring Chaim Topol and directed by Norman Jewison. Among the many tasty trivia titbits on offer here is the fact that Jewison, despite the name, is not in fact Jewish. Who knew?

What makes this doc are the organically introduced digressions into, among many other things, the history of the Pale of Settlement, who exactly was Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem (who wrote the stories the show is based on), Marc Chagall, and the show’s ghostly connection to the Holocaust, even though it’s not mentioned in the show itself.

Several of the contributors remark on Fiddler’s remarkable ability to seem relevant to every era, and that’s true now, with the rising numbers of refugees around the world, referenced in an affecting news montage. There’s even a bit at the end that visits an attraction in Ukraine called Anatevka, just like the fictional town in which Fiddler is set, which recently surfaced in the news because of its connection to Rudy Giuliani and his client Igor Fruman, key supporting characters in the impeachment of Donald Trump.

The clip of the Temptations singing a cover of If I Were a Rich Man is worth the price of admission alone.

• Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles is released in the UK on 13 December.


Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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