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Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  170 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
In the half-century since its premiere, Fiddler on the Roof has become a supremely potent cultural landmark, beloved by audiences the world over. Now, in a history as captivating as its subject, award-winning drama critic Alisa Solomon traces how and why the story of Tevye the milkman, the creation of the great Yiddish writer Sholem-Aleichem, was reborn as blockbuster ente ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Picador (first published October 22nd 2013)
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Community Reviews

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Sep 13, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a goodreads first reads winner of the book "Wonder of Wonders:A Cultural History of Fiddler On The Roof" I was happy to see there was a book that focused on Fiddler on The Roof. It is one of my favorite movies. I love the story Of Tevye.These Stories were written back in the late 1890s and early Sholem Aleichem. He wrote many stories in Yiddish.Many of his stories centered around "Tevye" and his family. i found it interesting that originally he had seven daughters{ in later play a ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Feb 16, 2014 Elliot Ratzman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where else will you find out that Mad Magazine’s parody of Fiddler had a suburban Tevye singing “POSSESSIONS!”? This is a mesmerizing history of Shalom Aleichem’s Tevye, from the short stories to early attempts at film and stage to post-musical kitsch. The central chapter is a nailbiting account of Jerome Robbins’ creation, direction and reworking of the musical. The stories of Robbins’ behind the scenes improvisations are astounding: the wedding bottle dance choreographed weeks before the openi ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am awestruck by the encyclopedic knowledge Alisa Solomon mobilized in crafting an engaging and enlightening narrative. I also loved all the personal anecdotes gleaned from interviews with surviving participants and their children.
Jan 03, 2016 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really lovely examination of the impact that the musical, Fiddler on the Roof has had across the world. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who loves Fiddler and particularly for those who have performed in it. Unlike many books about musicals, this one does not focus only on the Broadway production and movie, but goes far beyond. It is at it's strongest as it explores a middle school production's impact on a community, the first production in Israel and how an on-site production pita a ...more
Jonathan Malamy
Oct 28, 2013 Jonathan Malamy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening section, which describes Sholom-Aleichem's own history and writing, is fascinating. The author's research brings the setting to life. I'm looking forward to the rest. (update: I set it down and haven't continuted. One day...)
Sep 19, 2013 dejah_thoris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Disclaimer: This book was procured via the GoodReads First Reads Giveaway Program

I was SUPER excited to win and read this book because I have fond memories of sharing the movie adaptation of Fiddler with my father but I never knew where the show originated. This was also the perfect time in my life to be reading Solomon's tome on a single show because I just resumed acting (after 12 years of hiatus) in a show that was also an adaptation of a short story.

That noted, I couldn't help but love this
Sep 15, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
The story of Tevye and Anatevka has taken on a cultural life of its own, as has the music from the “Fiddler on the Roof”. The worldwide impact is all the more impressive when we look at the story’s origins in a series of Yiddish short stories written by Sholem-Aleichem in the decades that bridge the 19th and 20th centuries. The path from these beginnings to Broadway and Hollywood success was neither straightforward nor easy, and it was not clear that these stories would find wide acceptance. Tha ...more
Michael Arden
May 11, 2014 Michael Arden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Starting at the source, the Tevye stories of the master Yiddish novelist and short story writer, Sholem Aleichem, the author has written the definitive study of the famed musical that debuted on Broadway in 1964, becoming one of the longest running shows in the history of American theater. She traces earlier twentieth century adaptations of the stories to the stage before focusing in depth on the development of the Broadway show. The latter's creative cast of remarkable characters, including the ...more
Bob Mendelsohn
Dec 26, 2013 Bob Mendelsohn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not only is the drama a part of my story, but the film, the songs, the story itself is my story. No wonder from the beginning I wanted to read this. No wonder I read with heart-felt tugs. No wonder I wanted my own children and grandson to read this and to feel what I felt. But it's a story set in time, albeit timeless. And as Aliza showed in its origins-- the timing of the death of Shalom Aleichem and the timing of the show in the 1960s in the US-- contributed to its success on many levels.

My l
Mar 07, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm writing this before I give this book a star rating. I'm not sure of what it really should get. It is certainly a detailed history of the play but it is much more than that as it does indeed try to ascribe all manner of phenomena to the history of the play in relationship to the Jewish experience in America. Maybe my problem with all that is that I've been away from New York City for too long.

The book does evoke many memories of my growing up in the city. Fiddler opened when I was 13 althoug
Susan Grodsky
I took a long time to complete this book. Partly because I dropped it for a week while completing another title for my book club. But also because I found it a difficult read.

First because 350-plus pages really is more than I wanted to know. Solomon, like so many writers, has to tell you everything she learned in her research. Did it add to my understanding to know, for example, that El Al's promotion for the production in Israel described it as "5,760 miles off Broadway"?

A related problem is S
Jun 17, 2016 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Fiddler on the Roof, so when I read an interview with Alexandra Silber and Jessica Hecht (Tzeitel and Golde in the current Broadway revival) in which they referred to the whole cast having read Alisa Solomon's cultural history of the show, I decided I needed to get ahold of it.

Overall I really enjoyed learning more about the history of this musical, even if at times I found the writing oddly casual (I know it's a cultural history, but there were a number of sentence fragments that made me
Michael Ritchie
I was ready to give this 5 stars in the beginning, but the author loses her way fairly quickly and the book rides an uneasy path between academic book and popular, and I think the average Fiddler fan will be disappointed. The first part of the book, on Sholem Aleichem, is interesting but goes into far more detail about his life and works than is warranted by the subject of Fiddler on the Roof. The stuff about the first production is good but again, I tended to get lost in some of the minutiae. T ...more
Marc Davis
Mar 29, 2014 Marc Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, jewish
More than you will ever want to know about Fiddler on the Roof. It goes on a bit too long in some details, particularly about the creation of the Broadway show. It's perfectly good -- in fact, great -- to learn so much about Jerome Robbins and the writers and the search for the perfect actors. But you don't need to know quite so much about the set designer, the costume designer and the lighting man to understand or appreciate Fiddler.

Terrific chapters on Sholom Alecheim, his creations and his wo
Feb 07, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an incredibly comprehensive and exhaustive study of the Jewish cultural phenomenon that is Fiddler on the Roof. While the middle portion of the book was a little bogged down with minutiae about the original Broadway production directed by Jerome Robbins, the first section about Sholem-Aleichem and early Jewish American culture was fascinating and quite riveting. The final third of the book moved more quickly, and also presented some interesting history, focusing on a Brooklyn middle sch ...more
This book is an exhaustive and possibly exhausting history of Fiddler on the Roof. Solomon leaves no stone unturned in her book, with an extensive list of research. I read hundreds of pages/day and Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite movies, but I found this book very heavy. I don't know what audience the author is targeting. I don't think it is a book that can be read from beginning to end, such as a novel. It covers the history of the Jewish people, worldwide, throughout the 20th century ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Lauri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is too long and too detailed but the parts that do capture one's interest are fascinating - revelations of Sholem Aleichem as a self-promoter determined to make money on Broadway, the tensions between Zero Mostel and Jerome Robbins in the making of the original production of "Fiddler on the Roof", the African-American students who put on "Fiddler" in the midst of virulent anti-Jewish parent anger in Brownsville, NY, etc. Some of the author's conclusions seem speculative at best but she ...more
Melissa Alvarez zingo
I won this book in a first reads giveaway. I'm a HUGE lover of the movie, so I was excited to learn more about the backstory. Wow! What a history. I must give the author kudos for all her research and knowledge, and attention to detail. For me, it was just too many names to follow, and information to keep track of. There is a lot to learn about the history of Tevye in the theatre and multiple stories brought to the stage. I kept wanting to jump ahead to the development of the movie, because I fo ...more
Exapno Mapcase
Aug 27, 2013 Exapno Mapcase rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lter
This is a very expansive book that covers a lot of ground, and all of the aspects receive equal treatment. It starts out covering the life of the author Sholem-Aleichem, a pen name that translates in modern terms as “How do you do” (as a little joke, “What is your name? How do you do. Fine, but what is your name.)

First showing how he brought his life experiences into the Tevye stories and then moving on to his other writings and plays. It then moves away from Sholem-Aleichem and more into the ca
May 19, 2014 Betty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating cultural history of Fiddler on the Roof. I was worried this would be dry, instead it was hard to stop reading. As much as I love the movie, I never thought there would be so much history behind the production or that a culture would dismiss then embrace it. I never thought of it as a strictly Jewish story, although it is about a Russian Jewish family. Fiddler always evoked for me feelings of family, love, loss, and an attempt to maintain your self-identified place in the world. It ...more
Nov 27, 2013 Jamy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading what must have been an exhaustive history of one of my favorite shows (I have.been in three productions of Fiddler: high school and two community theater productions). Not only the show itself but some of the cultural ramifications felt from its worldwide legacy were very insightful... particularly an early 70s school production. A bit dry at times but overall a fascinating look at the inspiration for the show all the way up to the present nearly 50 years later Tevye and ...more
Mark Soulsby
Apr 16, 2014 Mark Soulsby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't expecting the level of detail relating to the incarnation of "Fiddler on the Roof" when I first began this book. The author certainly provides a very detailed analysis of how the stories by the Yiddish writer Sholem-Aleichem became to be one of the most successful and endearing Broadway musicals.

Insightful cultural story-telling, thought-provoking anecdotes and a rich narrative enabled this reader to understand the historical context of the makings of the musical.

Highly enjoyable, the
Sep 02, 2014 Luke rated it really liked it
It is fascinating to read about how tremendously gifted people came together to create and mold great works that touch the lives of many people in different ways. Fiddler is different than other musicals and has expressed the needs and dreams of a variety of people in different ways over the years. You will see it in a different light and will understand why it speaks to you in a certain way, and why it affects people differently than Guys and Dolls or other musicals. Four stars because she tell ...more
Margaret Sankey
Illuminating history of Fiddler on the Roof, from the Yiddish stories on which they were based to plays and eventually the Broadway musical, documenting the ways in which the story had to be reshaped for American 1960s audiences. Solomon continues the story into filming the movie in Yugoslavia under Tito's protection, Israeli productions and the controversial first black cast at a high school in 1970 Brooklyn.
Jack Goodstein
Sep 20, 2014 Jack Goodstein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In time for the 50th anniversary of the show's opening on Broadway comes this well researched love letter to the iconic Jewish musical--"Fiddler." The only thing missing is a more extensive account of the negative criticism, which is mentioned but never really fully developed.

My complete review is available at:

Aug 26, 2013 Ginny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read about a terrific musical. Lots and lots of detail about how the play came into being, starting with the original stories (it took a while to get to the creation of the musical itself, which made me a tad impatient, but I appreciate the author's research and knowledge). A must-read for fans of the play and for anyone interested in Jewish theatre.
David Flapan
Jul 14, 2014 David Flapan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: entertainment
A fascinating book for fans of history and/or the musical.
Alisa Solomon offers excellent and scholarly analysis of themes and messages of the show, while detailing how it came to be.
While seemingly long, there were still a few facts and story conclusions that were not covered.
Got it at the local library!
Daniel Olson
Nov 11, 2014 Daniel Olson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved how Solomon illuminated how 'Fiddler' has been turned and turned again in American Judaism, Israel, Poland, Brownsville, and more. As someone negotiating a Jewish identity in the 21st century, "Wonder of Wonders" helps me ground my thinking about the value of cultural forms I've attached myself to. "Fiddler", again and again, has been one of those forms.
Dec 15, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This is a long but fascinating historical and sociological study of the origins of the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and its many incarnations, not only in the U.S. but in Europe and Israel. It is written in a lively style, and I now have a much deeper understanding of the show and my own reactions to it through the years.
Nov 25, 2013 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full of information and anecdotes about Fiddler on the Roof from Sholem Aleichem to the most recent revival as well as a thoughtful discussion of the various stories, movies and plays and their relationship to U.S. and world culture. Wonderful
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“The group parted happily for the scheduled lunch break, planning to return at 3:00 to look at some potential Yentes and Perchiks, beginning with Bea Arthur.” 0 likes
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