Book Review: Fiddler On The Roof

Fiddler On The Roof, Based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories, Book by Joseph Stein, Music By Jerry Bock, Lyrics By Sheldon Harnick

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]

Many of my readers will be familiar with the musical or (even more likely) the film of Fiddler On The Roof, as well as its incomparable music, and will wonder what exactly this book contains. This book resembles the script of any of my 60 or so completed plays, in that it shows the dialogue of the characters as well as the song lyrics, and notation on the entrances and exits of characters and their action. It is the sort of script that would be familiar, in other words, to anyone who reads or writes drama, and includes the act and scene divisions from the musical, actions which are slightly different (but only slightly) from the film. It also includes the original cast list for the Broadway premiere of this musical, which occurred 50 years ago. This, incidentally enough, is the reason for the existence of this book, which serves as an 50th anniversary edition of the premiere of Fiddler On The Roof on Broadway.

The contents of this book will be intimately familiar to anyone who is as fond of the musical or film as I am. It contains a touching story about a decent but poor man, his ambitious wife, their five attractive daughters (three of whom are eminently marriageable), and their struggles as Jews in a little village in the pale of Russia facing the Russian pogroms of 1905, ultimately facing exile from their homeland. Tevye, the father of the house, serves as an appealing everyman whose questions about the dislocating changes to comfortable tradition that come through strange vagabonds as well as the larger political concerns of which he and his fellow villagers are largely ignorant serve to remind us all of the many facets of social change, and which changes can be accommodated and which are beyond the pale. The marriages of each succeeding daughter serve to show the breakup of traditional society more and more. All of this would be rather easy to remember for those who are familiar with this most excellent work.

Why does this book appeal to me, though, and why would it appeal to someone else who reads it? When I read this book, I see the lines on the page and imagine the scenes of the film, and the songs, many of which are etched in my memory and reflect some of the concerns of my life [1]. Whether one is looking at the anxieties of courtship and marriage, family and relationship drama, the precariousness of life as a fiddler on the roof, the experience of being a poor stranger in a tight-knit community of outsiders facing political repercussions for one’s worldview, the threat of exile and police action that disrupts one’s peaceful village life, the problems of aging and the uncomfortable passage of time, the concerns of this musical in many ways mirrors the concerns of my own life. At this stage in my life, I view with sympathy the desires of Tevye’s daughters for a matchless match, and see a great deal of myself in the university educated and politically egalitarian intellectual vagabond Perchik. Seeing as I had the chance to bring this work into my library and reflect upon its text, how could I not take advantage of it?

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/this-is-not-where-i-parked-my-car/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/matchmaker-matchmaker-make-me-a-match/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Church of God, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: Fiddler On The Roof

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