Since its debut on September 22, 1964, Fiddler on the Roof has been performed every day somewhere in the world. I saw it when I was four years old at the Aire Crown Theatre in Chicago. I remember many details from that night: my black patent leather Mary Jane shoes and white ruffled party socks; my little legs being too short for my knees to bend over the plush theatre seat; the nuns sat in the row in front of us; the fancy crowd of adults; the Playbill, which boosted ads for cars and perfume, that my father sat and explained to me as I poured over it in awe.
It was a magical night. It was one of the first times I learned about what life was like for my ancestral family back in a shtetl, a small Jewish ghetto town, in Eastern Europe in the Pale of Settlement. I realized that night that I wanted to be a theatre actress, which I was for many years. Overall, I was bowled over by the power and joy of the music, humor, sets, and acting of the production that communicated with startling depth a deep humanity, helmed by the incomparable Zero Mostel as Tevye - the dairyfarmer with five daughters, three of "marriageable" age with minds and hearts of their own, and a strong wife, Golda - who struggles with poverty, assimilation, the changing climate of his Russian village as Jews are forced off their land by pogroms, faith, and tradition.
Fiddler on the Roof is based on a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem that he wrote in Yiddish between 1894 and 1914 about Jewish life in Imperial Russia at the turn of the 20th century. In Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, director Max Lewkowicz tells the story of the origins of the Fiddler musical, composed by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, and scripted for film by Joseph Stein. In this documentary, we learn, among other things, that Jewish actor Zero Mostel fought with Robbins, whom he resented because Robbins had testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The documentary details some of the universal appeal of the story, including the love for Fiddler from people in Japan and Thailand and we are shown portions of some of their productions, as well as a production done by African American youth, and as a special treat, The Temptations sing, "If I Were a Rich Man." The image for The Fiddler on the Roof was inspired by the paintings of Marc Chagall. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie!