Harold Prince was asked to produce and direct Fiddler on the Roof, but as we learn in the new documentary Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles (in select theatres August 23), Prince knew he was not the man for the job.
Prince, who did produce the show but hired Jerome Robbins to direct, is among the myriad voices who contribute to the oral history of Fiddler in the new documentary from Max Lewkowicz and Valerie Thomas. The film tracks Fiddler from its earliest discussions to its Detroit tryout, from Broadway to the silver screen.
Over the course of two years, the filmmakers also interviewed late book writer Joseph Stein, late composer Jerry Bock, lyricist Sheldon Harnick, as well as performers from the original Broadway production—like Austin Pendleton—and recent revivals, as well as stars from the movie, and today’s stars of musical theatre—like Lin-Manuel Miranda—to weigh in on the impact of the story.
The film also features Fran Lebowitz, Joel Grey, Chaim Topol, Harvey Fierstein, Danny Burstein, Steven Skybell, Jessica Hecht, Ted Chapin, Adam Kantor, Josh Mostel (Zero Mostel’s Son), Bartlett Sher, Ted Sperling, Alexandra Silber, Melanie Moore, and Michael Bernardi (Herschel Bernardi’s son).
After meeting Harnick at a presentation, Lewkowicz was inspired to look into the making and legacy of Fiddler. “Though people like Jerry Bock and Jerome Robbins and Sholem Aleichem are long gone, the interviews telling a story from the banks of one’s memory brings them alive,” Lewkowicz tells Playbill. “How did this remarkable Broadway work of art (about a subject unknown to most viewers) come to life and how was it massaged over the years to remain powerful?”
The son of a Holocaust survivor, Lewkowicz first encountered Fiddler through the 1971 film and then saw the show on Broadway. But it was the stories about communities around the world performing the work over 50 years later that made the documentarian realize he’d found the subject for his next film.