From Broadway productions to high school performances, Fiddler on the Roof has captivated audiences around the world for 50 years.
The story of a poor Jewish family in Russia at the turn of the last century would seem at first glance to have a limited commercial appeal, and in fact the show almost didn’t get made because theatre producers in the early '60s couldn’t see how they’d sell enough tickets to Gentiles. But the show did get made and the rest is, well, history.
And a compelling history it is. In Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural history of Fiddler on the Roof, author Alisa Solomon takes us from the original Sholem Aleichem stories the musical was based on to the most recent revivals of the show on Broadway.
"It’s a story very much about change, about how a family is trying to deal with all of these kinds of forces of history that are creating changes to the community, to the family structure, to the ethos," she says.
A concert this Sunday, September 11, takes the musical’s history one step further and showcases some lesser-known songs. “Fiddler: The Untold Tradition” concert, created by Hazzan Jeremy Stein from Beth Israel Ner Tamid, will feature songs written for the show that didn't make the final cut.
Author Alisa Solomon was in Milwaukee to read from her book at Boswell Book Company. She was a theatre critic for the Village Voice from 1983 to 2004, and she has also contributed to The New York Times and The Nation, among other publications. Solomon teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she directs the Arts & Culture concentration in the MA program.
This piece originally aired January 29, 2014.