Soul Doctor. Circle in the Square Theatre (see Broadway). Music by Shlomo Carlebach. Lyrics by David Schechter. Book by Daniel S. Wise. Dir. Wise. With Eric Anderson, Amber Iman. 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Soul Doctor: in brief
Writer-director Daniel S. Wise pulls a rabbi out of his hat in a biomusical about the 1960s world-music star Shlomo Carlebach, which examines the Hasidic composer's unusual career, as well as his friendship with soul queen Nina Simone. Eric Anderson plays the lead role, and David Schechter provides lyrics for 30 of Carlebach's compositions.
Soul Doctor: theater review by Adam Feldman
Gevalt! The best that can be said about Soul Doctor, a strange Broadway musical based on the life and music of “singing rabbi” Shlomo Carlebach, is that it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Carlebach was a charismatic Hasid who used folky, catchy tunes to spread a message of spirituality in the 1960s and beyond. (For a time, his followers ran a hippie-friendly House of Love and Prayer in San Francisco.) The show’s opening number, in which a chorus of festively costumed “Holy Beggars” streams down the aisles, promises a cross between Fiddler on the Roof and Hair. What follows, however, is mostly sentimental and familiar. The songs hold up well—it’s hard not to bop along to “Am Yisrael Chai”—and Eric Anderson’s full, warm voice does Carlebach honor; Amber Iman is impressively poised as Nina Simone, whose friendship with him is the focal point of Daniel S. Wise’s episodic book. But the show digs shallowly into its central character and his beliefs, and often rings false. The real Carlebach was a complex, fascinating man, with flaws as well as melodies. (It has long been alleged that his warm embraces could bleed into sexual predation.) Reverent to a fault, Soul Doctor bleaches a story that cries out for tie-dye.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
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