Soul Doctor, the musical about popular Jewish music Shlomo Carlebach and his unexpected friendship with musical legend Nina Simone, will play its last performance at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Oct. 13. It will have played 32 previews and 66 regular performances. Reviews were mixed with Christopher Isherwood of The New York Times calling it “a bizarre and at times bewildering musical.”
After escaping from Nazi Germany, Carlebach and his family settle in New York City where his father runs a small synogogue. Young Shlomo follows in his dad’s footsteps to become a Torah scholar and rabbi, but is also attracted to the burgeoning folk club scene of the 1960s. He later meets the iconic jazz singer Nina Simone who introduces him to gospel and soul. With Nina as his inspiration, he mixes folk, pop, and souls sounds with traditional Jewish music to create his own unique songs, attracting an enthuiastic audience. He gains fame as the “Rock Star Rabbi” and struggles to stay true to his conservative Orthodox roots while entertaining his progressive liberal followers. The score includes hits from Carlebach’s long career woven together by the orchestrator of The Who’s Tommy and Elton John’s Aida.
Eric Anderson plays Shlomo and received a Drama Desk nomination for the Off-Broadway run and Amber Iman makes her Broadway debut as Nina Simone. The book and direction are by Daniel S. Wise with music by Carlebach and lyrics by David Schecter. Choreography is by Benoit Swan-Pouffer, former artistic director of Cedar Lake Ballet.