Film Review: ‘Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles’

Variety | 8/23/2019 | Dennis Harvey
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Still beloved and routinely revived 55 years after its Broadway debut — including a Yiddish-language version now playing in New York — “Fiddler on the Roof” is a popular phenomenon that shows no sign of subsiding. Max Lewkowicz’s “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” provides an entertaining if hardly exhaustive overview of how the unlikely success came to be. The story it tells might easily have filled an engrossing documentary twice the length of this competent, not-particularly-inspired one.

Someday, doubtless, we’ll get that deeper dive. Meanwhile, “Miracle” opens on multiple screens Aug. 23 in New York and Los Angeles, expanding to more U.S. cities the following week, and with a high likelihood of finding a readymade audience nearly everywhere it goes.

Producer - Hal - Prince - Miracle - Benefits

Dedicated to recently deceased producer Hal Prince, “Miracle” benefits from the fact that so many of the show’s original prime movers were still alive to be interviewed: not director Jerome Robbins or star Zero Mostel, but composer Jerry Bock, lyricist Sheldon Harnick and book author Joseph Stein, among others. (Stein and Bock both passed away in 2010, but are seen reminiscing in footage shot late enough that it blends seamlessly here.) It was Stein who steered Harnick and Bock towards Tevye the Milkman and his five daughters, when originally other, less musical-friendly Sholem Aleichem writings had been considered for adaptation.

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Film - Review - Miracle - Miracles

Film Review: 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

But it was an immediate, enormous popular success nonetheless, one that was duplicated when Norman Jewison (a goy, by the way) directed the 1971 film version. Less explicable, perhaps, is the show’s continuing ubiquity in places where one might expect its ethnic and historical specificity to be a real roadblock — Japan, for instance, where we see numerous clips from a recent production.

Point - Fiddler - Deals - Themes

But as many point out here, tragicomedic “Fiddler” deals with universal themes...
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