PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Soul Doctor — Shlomo in Slo-Mo

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16 Aug 2013

Song-writing legend Carole King  showed up, presumably to see what it would be like to be saluted with a Broadway musical. (Hers, Beautiful, goes into previews Sept. 24 at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco and will get to Broadway by year's end.) Also, in related developments, King's grandson is in the band.

Fyvush Finkel, 90, was thoroughly familiar with the evening’s music. "And how!" he exclaimed. "Shlomo and I were in the same show. What he would do would be to take the Scriptures and set them to his own music. He had a great sense of melody.

"And this new guy, Eric Anderson, is marvelous, a better performer than Shlomo."

Not only was Tovah Feldshuh familiar with the Carlebach catalog, she was offered the part of his mother in the show. (The former Golda Meir graciously declined.)

"Yes, I was very familiar with his music, though I wasn’t at his synagogue," the actress admitted. "He played a very important part in bringing the sheer joy of music and Judaism to a whole generation. It was like Jewish Hair, y'know — very melodic, very simple, very catchy. Everybody could sing it. His melodies have infused all sorts of services, from every movement in Judaism — whether it's reform, conservative, reconstructionist or modern Orthodox. It’s all over the place."

Feldshuh had to come down to earth to make it to the theatre. She's currently filling in for Andrea Martin as Pippin’s high-flying granny, Bertha. The high-wire action doesn’t make her nervous, she insisted. "I'm on that trapeze, starting Tuesday, for eight more shows. It's been an extraordinary experience. I've been in hits but nothing like this. I really regard this as a high point in my career, even this four-week visit to the show." Will she be back? "I've been sworn to secrecy." Translation: Yes.


Amber Iman
photo by Monica Simoes

Amber Iman, who makes her Broadway debut as Nina Simone, was the last to arrive in this production. "A few months ago, I stumbled upon it on YouTube when they were in Florida," she recalled. "Just looking at it — seeing those few clips online — I thought, 'That's an excellent piece. I'd love to see it.'" Snooping around more about the show, she stumbled again — into an audition — and got the part.

"I have been a Nina fan as long as I can remember, and I thought I knew her, but doing this show has opened my eyes and my ears to so much more of Nina that I had no idea existed. She was the voice of the civil rights movement and the black pride movement. She wanted to lift people up, to bring them together — and she was just so outspoken. She didn’t care what anybody said or thought about her. She had a mission and a purpose in life — and to hear that in her music is magical.


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