When composer Jerry Bock sent a demo to lyricist Sheldon Harnick for a new melody to put in their Fiddler on the Roof, he introduces the song as, “fun and it's a little musical comedy, but it might be a kind of tour de force without being cheap, but just being bubbly spirited and kind of kooky.”
As we learn in the upcoming documentary Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, that song was the now famous “If I Were a Rich Man.”
The documentary from Max Lewkowicz and Valerie Thomas hits select theatres August 23 and investigates the creation and impact of the1964 musical about Tevye the Dairyman and his daughters.
As it turns out, the score to the worldwide hit—which includes such standards as “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “Sunrise, Sunset”—was largely written separately by Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick.
“Sheldon and I, we’d become somewhat familiar with the book, we’d separate and I would guess as to what kind of music in terms of ambience, period, character, and so forth. So I would send Sheldon a half a dozen melodic guesses,” says Bock in the video clip above.
“I always looked forward to these tapes that Jerry would send,” Harnick continues. “On each tape, one or two of them would coincide with ideas I had for lyrics.”
The film includes dozens of interviews, including book writer Joseph Stein, producer Harold Prince, original cast member Austin Pendleton, revival cast members, Alexandra Silber, Danny Burstein, and film actor Chaim Topol. Harnick also appeared on The Today Show August 20 to speak about the legacy of his musical.
Watch the full clip above.