Veteran actor Mike Burstyn will step into the show to play the father of the title role when Soul Doctor makes its Fort Lauderdale premiere at the Parker Playhouse Jan. 11 following a Dec. 25-Jan. 8 run that played the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. The cast change was "a necessary adjustment," a spokesperson for the producer said. Morris' teen son, Garon, who plays the title character's brother, Eli, as a child, has remained with the project.
For the Miami Beach first leg of the Florida production, Morris, the first American actor to play Les Miz's Jean Valjean on Broadway, shared the role of the late music-making rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the so-called rock 'n' roll rabbi. Morris played Shlomo in his older years (and Shlomo's father), while Eric Anderson (Lincoln Center Theater's South Pacific, The Wild Party at Blank Theatre, Ragtime for Musical Theatre West) played the younger Shlomo for much of the evening. Anderson will now play the adult Shlomo in the entire show, with Burstyn playing his father.
The musical (with songs by Shlomo Carlebach and David Schechter) is billed as "Broadway-bound," but no official announcement for a New York life has been made.
The first Fort Lauderdale performance was originally to be Jan. 10, but the show will now bow Jan. 11. Stage and screen veteran Burstyn — of Los Angeles' Jolson at the Winter Garden, Broadway's Barnum, Off-Broadway's The Rothschilds and TV — is busily rehearsing with the company Jan. 10.
Daniel S. Wise is Soul Doctor's playwright, producer and director. The comic musical drawing on the "true story of the beloved and controversial father of popular Jewish music, Shlomo Carlebach," who died in 1994, also features Tony Award nominee Liz Larsen (The Most Happy Fella, Starmites, Hairspray) as Shlomo's mother; Erica Ash (Baby It's You!) as soul singer Nina Simone, "the unlikely friend and muse to Shlomo Carlebach"; Ryan Strand (national tour of Jersey Boys) as Rabbi Eli Chaim Carlebach, Shlomo's twin brother; Jeffrey Kuhn (Broadway's The 39 Steps); Jonathan Brody (Broadway's Titanic); Merideth Kaye Clark; Kenny Morris; Joey Farber as the child Shlomo; Julia Osborne; Colin Campbell McAdoo; Greg Jarema; Sara Andreas (Broadway's Catch Me If You Can); Ryan Koss; Sheila Jones; Kara Kimmer; and Garon Morris.
With a different cast, the show played two separate engagements in New Orleans in 2010.
According to the producers, Soul Doctor "takes us on a musical odyssey through the challenges and triumphs of this cultural phenomenon: his childhood escape from Nazi Germany, becoming a rabbinical prodigy in America; discovering Gospel and Soul music during his unlikely friendship with Nina Simone. It chronicles his meteoric rise as a 'Rock-Star Rabbi' in the 1960s, performing with Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead; his struggle to reconcile his deep traditional roots with his desire to reach people of all backgrounds in the 'free-love generation'; and his personal conflicts trying to keep his family together while traversing the globe as a 'Soul Doctor.' He brought joy and song to the lonely, the searching and the brokenhearted."
Steve Margoshes, the orchestrator of Broadway's Aida, The Who's Tommy and Smokey Joe's Café, has blended 30 of Carlebach's songs into the show. Music and additional lyrics are by Carlebach; lyrics are by David Schechter; conception is by Jeremy Chess; additional material is by Neshama Carlebach. The show was created and developed by David Schechter and Daniel S. Wise.
Daniel S. Wise, Soul Doctor's playwright, producer and director, said in a statement, "Shlomo himself was like a great theatrical experience. Even if you were in a large crowd, Shlomo's magnetism and charisma would reach you in the most personal and intimate way, igniting your imagination to discover a new level of joy."
No dates or theatre have been announced for the show's Broadway life. Gerry McIntyre is the choreographer.
The creative team includes Neil Patel (scenic design), Emily DeAngelis (costume design), Jeff Croiter & Grant Yeager (lighting design), Shannon Slaton (sound design), Kevin Bertolacci (production stage manager), Laura Wilson (stage manager).
At one point in the show's development, the subtitle Journey of a Rock-Star Rabbi was being used.
Soul Doctor plays Jan. 11-29 at Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th Street.
Individual tickets for the show can be purchased Parker Playhouse at (954) 462-0222 or through www.ticketmaster.com. Visit shlomomusical.com for more information.