Soul Doctor, the Rockin' Rabbi Musical, Hoping for Commercial Life in NYC
By Kenneth Jones
The producers of Soul Doctor, the musical about the real-life unconventional rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, his passion for pop music and his relationship with soul singer Nina Simone, are seeking a commercial run in midtown Manhattan, the New York Times reported. It played a brief run Off-Broadway July 30-Aug. 19 as a guest attraction at New York Theatre Workshop. The show is fueled by the music of the late Carlebach.
According to the Times, lead producer Jeremy Chess thinks there is enough crossover appeal to attract a wide variety of audiences — both Jewish and non-Jewish. There have been discussions with Off-Broadway's New World Stages and Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre. Playbill.com has sought comment from a spokesman for the show. No official announcement about a future production has been made. Investors are reportedly being lined up.
The Manhattan staging this summer followed developmental runs at two venues in Florida in 2011-12, and performances in New Orleans in 2010.
Written and directed by Daniel Wise and choreographed by the Princess Grace award-winning choreographer Camille A. Brown, the show has music by Carlebach, lyrics by Drama Desk-nominated David Schechter, with additional music and arrangements by Nina Simone.
Producers Jeremy Chess, Joel Kahn, Jerome Levy, Edward L. Steinberg, Robert Beckwitt and Alan Zimbard presented the limited run.
The company included Eric Anderson (of Broadway's South Pacific) as Shlomo Carlebach (he also played the role in Florida last winter following a casting shakeup) and Erica Ash (Broadway's The Lion King; Baby It's You!, "Mad TV") as Nina Simone, with Meredith Kaye Clarke (Wicked), Ryan Strand (Jersey Boys), Kenny Morris, Rachel Stern, Dionne Figgins, Ryan Duncan and Julia Osborne.
Here's how the production is billed: "Soul Doctor tells the story of the beloved yet controversial father of popular Jewish music, rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and explores his unlikely friendship with the 'High Priestess of Soul' Nina Simone. Beginning with his childhood escape from Nazi Germany, the show takes us on a musical odyssey through the challenges and triumphs of this cultural phenomenon, as he becomes a rabbinical prodigy in America, discovers Gospel and Soul music during his friendship with Simone, and has a meteoric rise as a 'Rock Star Rabbi' in the 1960s, performing with Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. This taste of stardom is a double-edged sword as Shlomo struggles with the personal conflicts of keeping his family together while traversing the globe, and reconciling his deep traditional roots with his desire to reach people of all backgrounds."
The creative team includes musician Steve Margoshes (who arranges and "weaves" 30 of Carlebach's songs into the story), Seth Farber (musical direction and orchestrations), Jeff Croiter (lighting) and Clive Goodwin (sound).
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