Reviews

PRAISE FOR WONDER OF WONDERS

“The aptly-titled Wonder of Wonders is the richest, deepest, most far-ranging, continuously and delightfully surprising book about a single work of theatrical art I’ve ever encountered. An intellectually serious, playful, and insightful account of popular art’s power to shape memory and transmute history into universal myth, it is a soul-stirring joy to read, and only Alisa Solomon could have written it.”
—Tony Kushner, playwright

“I expected that this book would revive many treasured memories, which it certainly did. What I didn’t expect to find was the fascinating history of Sholem-Aleichem’s Tevye’s Daughters or the riveting and unexpectedly moving account of Fiddler’s fortunes after the end of the musical’s Broadway run. I have always been proud of Fiddler, but never more so than after reading this astonishing book.”
—Sheldon Harnick, lyricist, Fiddler on the Roof

“Alisa Solomon was put on earth to write this exceptional and essential book. A world-class theater critic, a learned Yiddishist, a trenchant journalist, and just a plain wonderful writer, she has brought all her skills to bear in tracing the history of the Tevye stories that became Fiddler on the Roof. The Broadway musical, in her hands, becomes a Rosetta Stone for understanding the Jewish journey.”
—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry

“Wonder of Wonders is a wonder! Alisa Solomon perfectly captures the process of making a musical — the intricate collaborations, the alchemy of talent and temperament — and transforming it into film. A fantastic storyteller, an astute cultural interpreter, and a superb critic, Solomon offers an elegantly crafted, moving, thoughtful, and entertaining account of Fiddler’s journeys across time and place. This is the story of Fiddler for the ages.”
—Stacy Wolf, author of Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical

If you think you have seen Fiddler on the Roof, think again. The wonder of it all is the magic that transformed stories by Sholem-Aleichem into a near universal icon of enduring power. How that happened, the multifarious forms and meanings of Fiddler on the Roof, is the subject of Alisa Solomon’s meticulously researched and beautifully written book.”
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, author of Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage

 “Wonder of Wonders combines probing theater history with incisive cultural studies and a compelling narrative. From Sholem-Aleichem’s Tevye stories to the triumphant Broadway musical, from politically charged productions in Brooklyn, Tel Aviv, and Poland to the sanctification of Fiddler numbers in Jewish ritual, Alisa Solomon traces the transformation of Fiddler into a cultural phenomenon that has powerfully spoken for American Jews as well as so many others around the world.”
—Jeffrey Shandler, author of Shtetl: A Vernacular Intellectual History

WALL STREET JOURNAL
In her reflective essay in the Wall Street Journal, Shelley Salamensky calls Wonder of Wonders “exuberant” and “moving.”

NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
EDITOR’S CHOICE, 12/15/13
“A smart social analysis of the making of the musical and its reflection of changing Jewish identity in America.”

BILL’S BOOKS – NBC TV
“an amazing book” “wonderful” “magnificent”

Mike Fischer, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL
“glorious” “thrilling, must-read book”
“In more than 30 years of reading, writing and thinking about theater as an actor, critic and fan, I’ve never read a book on the subject that taught or moved me as much — reflecting Solomon’s ability to weave gobs of meticulous research into a compelling, beautifully written story about the musical she persuasively argues has seeped into our culture like no other, before or since.”

Stephen Whitfield, JEWISH REVIEW OF BOOKS
“a riveting account of how an adaptation from a Yiddish storyteller came close—against all odds—to achieving universal appeal”
“… Wonder of Wonders may be the best volume ever written about an American musical. Solomon writes in a sprightly prose that neither condescends nor gushes …”

William Deresiewicz in THE ATLANTIC
“nothing less than a cultural history of American Jewry as refracted through its most celebrated artifact”

Jenna Weissman Joselit, THE NEW REPUBLIC
“droll and fascinating book… A cultural biography of Fiddler, it tells the tale of how this amalgam of the Old World and the New, of Yiddish source material and American razzmatazz, became one of the most beloved and “insistent” of all American theatrical productions.”

Barrie Gelles, THEATRE JOURNAL
“a story-telling masterpiece” … “Solomon embraces the lore, digs into the archives, and provides analysis with the insight of a rebbe offering wisdom.” . . . “read[s] like a Jewish theatrical Ocean’s Eleven” …  “Solomon tells a riveting tale of script, score, and design revisions from the rehearsal room to the Broadway run.”

“The book is a smart, thorough,and engaging history that puts Fiddler in the context of twentieth-century Jewishness, American theatre history, Broadway musicals, and transnational theatre productions, but it is also a love letter to the miracle of co-creation and how popular culture first relays culture and later shapes it.”

Jose Solis, POP MATTERS
“delivers what it promises and more” .  . .  “a real page turner” . . .  “Solomon tells the tale with delight and enough suspense to make us wonder if this motley crew will actually pull off something that we already know is part of popular history.”

LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW:
More than a cultural history of the extraordinarily popular Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, this wonderfully detailed and highly readable text also touches on Sholem Aleichem, the history of Yiddish theater, shtetl life, American politics, theater in the 1960s, and the roles of Jews in America in a post-World War II, post-McCarthy era. Theater critic Solomon’s (dir., arts & culture concentration, MA program, Columbia Journalism Sch.; Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender ) love for this iconic musical is evident throughout; she comments that “the greater sum that Fiddler ‘s parts added up to went beyond the soul-stirring, radiant enchantment of even the best Broadway musicals.” The book also details Fiddler ‘s great success: within a decade of its 1964 opening, the musical had played in two dozen countries, and by the time of the release of the 1971 film, there had been 15 productions in Finland alone. Solomon sets the context for this landmark musical by examining New York City politics and race relations and the assimilation of the Jewish community in America at this time. A detailed, selective bibliography and notes will be an asset to scholars.
-Herb Shapiro

Jonathan Kirsch, JEWISH JOURNAL
…How a hit song from a Broadway musical entered the global pop culture is one of the wonder of wonders that is explored and explained with both charm and authority by theater critic, journalist and scholar Alisa Solomon in her wholly winning book, “Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof” (Metropolitan Books, $30).

Solomon tells the whole story of “Fiddler” from beginning to end, starting with the story by Sholem Aleichem in which Tevye first appeared in 1894, and showing us in suspenseful detail how  “Fiddler on the Roof,” created by Jerry Bock (music), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Joseph Stein (book), reached the Broadway stage in 1964. In that sense, “Wonder of Wonders” is a rich and lively slice of theater history. …

Wendy Smith, WASHINGTON POST
“stimulating” “shrewd analysis” “exemplary critical history”

Bill Gladstone, The Canadian Jewish News
“Wonder of Wonders shines as brightly as a row of Broadway footlights with well-researched background and cultural insights. In these highly readable 432 pages, Solomon easily makes us appreciate Fiddler On The Roof for the iconic American – and specifically Jewish – cultural landmark that it is.”

Tahneer Oksam, Jewish Book Council review 
… Solomon takes us on a revealing tour of the politics of creating a popular theatrical hit, carefully weaving that narrative alongside the changing historical conditions of Jewish American life, literature, and popular culture in the twentieth century. …

Erik Haagensen in the November 2013 issue of American Theater
…Alisa Solomon’s terrific Wonder of Wonders examines the “cultural history” of this beloved musical . . .
… As Mrs. Higgins, the mother of he hero of another culturally indelible musical, might say, Bravo, Alisa!

 Sandee Brawarsky, in Jewish Week, 11/13/13
“Tracing Tevye’s Cultural Footprint”
an impressive new book  . . .  a work of cultural analysis, making connections between the arts and the political, historical and emotional pulse of the times.  . . . [Solomon] offers detailed reporting and original perspectives as she probes how the show has been embraced by Jewish and non-Jewish audiences for half a century.

Todd Decker, in The Common Reader, 10/14
“Why the Fiddler Sticks”
“a mural-like treatment of the Broadway musical as a form both shaped by and shaping Jewish history and identity” …  “Solomon’s account draws on archival documents and scores of interviews and reads as a compelling human interest story: the creation of a Broadway hit by well-known creative individuals, several of whom experienced the making of Fiddler as a remaking of their Jewish selves.”

Steve Suskin, in Playbill.com
“The Book Shelf”
“incisive” … “fascinating” …”talk[s] about the cultural aspects of Fiddler on stage, on screen and internationally, which gives us plenty of food for thought, as they say. Solomon makes it tasty and provocative.”

Peter Eisenstadt, The Jewish Pluralist
“superb”

Robert Brustein, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS  (subscription only) 12/18/14
praises Wonder of Wonders for being, among other books on related topics, “the best written, the most scholarly, and the most painstaking,” but rails against Fiddler itself and doesn’t really address the argument or scope of Wonder of Wonders.