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Sally Ember, Ed.D.
– February 29, 2020
My Jewish mom (almost 88) and I (65, and a cultural Jew and Buddhist) watched this together. We were moved to tears and pride so many times, we lost track.
My high school produced (in St. Louis, Missouri, USA) this as our annual school musical when I was a junior, in 1971, right after the film came out. I had the great fortune to be the rehearsal accompanist for the dancers and all tech and dress rehearsals: all of this, note for note, was meaningful to me, musically.
As Jews whose families were driven out of Eastern Europe by pogroms in the late 1800s, my mom and I related to every part of the Anatevka story, too. When the son of one of the most famous “Fiddler” actors (the late Herschel Bernardi), both of whom have played Tevye, returns to the current Anatevka (in the Ukraine), we were amazed to see that some of the original town was still there.
This documentary is one of the best we’ve ever seen: it has great edits, showing footage of a lot of the creative process, the show’s history (of the Sholom Aleichem stories) and creators, actors and stars, productions from around the world (Japan! Thailand! Holland!), interviews and great explanations about the social/political meanings of the storylines, characters’ arcs, and reasons it still resonates with so many, almost 60 years later. There were even some clips of songs/lyrics that didn’t make the final cut.
The universality of the story and its characters was mentioned repeatedly and demonstrated by the variety of people who had been touched, involved, and connected to this play and/or film. Lin Manuel Miranda’s own wedding toast song, “L’Chaim,” came from “Fiddler”!
It ends with this astonishing fact: EVERY DAY since it first opened on Broadway in 1964, somewhere in the world, an amateur or professional production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is occurring/has occurred!
Very special, fun, fascinating, powerful and worthwhile, and highly recommended. We got to watch it by borrowing the DVD (which came out in January, 2020) from our local public library.
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