Fiddler On The Roof Review

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Against a background of political upheavel in a Jewish settlement in pre-revolutionary Russia, Topol deals with the disappointing marriage choices of his three daughters.


Spruced up and re-released for its 30th anniversary, Norman Jewison's spin on Sholom Aleichem's classic tale, originally filmed in 1939 as the Yiddish-language Tevye, is one of the few screen musicals of the last 30 years which actually works - largely thanks to its glimpse into a long-gone culture (that of a Jewish ghetto in pre-revolutionary Russia), combined with a memorable roster of tunes (If I Were A Rich Man, Sunrise Sunset et al).

Topol is Tevye, who dreams of a better life even as his wilful daughters rebel against his plans of arranged marriages, and the prejudices of the outside world threaten to ruin his cosy existence. John Williams' adapted score was one of the pair of Oscars gleaned from the eight it was nominated for. Jerry Bock's fine songs are actually few and far between, while the plot's political undertones play second, er, fiddle to the trials and tribulations of Tvye. Look out for a pre-Starsky And Hutch Paul Michael Glaser.

Like many musicals, the good songs dry up in the second half, but its blend of energetic joie de vivre and social commentary sustains it through to the end.

It still stands up as an upbeat portrait of pre-revolutionary Russia, and will have you whistling If I Were A Rich Man for days.