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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fiddler On The Roof (1971)

In Czarist Russia in the early 20th century, a poor Jewish milkman (Topol) must contend with the growing anti-Semitic fervor (resulting in sanctioned pogroms) of the government but also finding husbands for his five daughters, three of which are of marrying age. He must also deal with the changes in the world which challenge his faith and his traditions. Based on the Broadway musical, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is not only one of the best (and faithful) adaptations of a stage musical but one of the greatest film musicals ... period. Director Norman Jewison (despite his name, he's a gentile) miraculously manages to be faithful to the original show while shattering the proscenium and bring forth a real movie, not a dusty archival stagebound representation. Jewison wisely decided against casting the show's original Tevye, Zero Mostel (too big for the camera), and cast the Israeli actor Topol instead, who brings the necessary largeness to the part without chewing the scenery. The wonderful Bock and Harnick score is beautifully adapted by John Williams. It's a powerful musical rich in humor, heart and poignancy. I can't think of a more heartbreaking moment in any musical than the lovely Chava Ballet Sequence and Tevye's shattering rejection of his youngest daughter. With Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, Paul Mann, Rosalind Harris, Michele Marsh, Raymond Lovelock and Paul Michael Glaser.

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