The late musical rabbi Shlomo Carlebach is at the center of the Broadway show entitled "Soul Doctor." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
"Soul Doctor" is quite a curiosity and if it wasn’t based on a true story I’d be saying what a cockamamie show this is. But it is what it is, over-stuffed, wildly uneven and yet, true to the title, blessed with enough soul - and talent - to convert many non-believers.
Imagine pitching a Broadway show about a title character named Shlomo Carlebach, the rock and roll rabbi. Sounds like amateur night in the Catskills. But Shlomo was indeed a star in his day, performing his own pop songs inspired by the many years in his father’s yeshivah.
And if that's not odd enough, Shlomo was best friends with and possibly responsible for jumpstarting the career of Nina Simone, the great jazz performer. The two are the show's central characters, and book writer Daniel S. Wise plays up their shared struggles - anti-semitism for Shlomo; racial prejudice on Nina's end; and both suffering the disappointment of ultra religious families.
Wise, who also directed, delves in cliches for the most part - spanning decades, yet another by-the-numbers story of famed talents bucking the odds to success. But when the music starts, that's when the show truly sings.
Carlebach's original tunes are simple but extremely catchy - think Fiddler on the Roof - plugged. And happily, the performers are all in terrific voice.
Eric Anderson, a non-Jew, I should point out, is extremely convincing both as a musical talent and as an Orthodox rabbi imbued with a loving soul. And Amber Imam, making a stunning Broadway debut not only suggests Ms. Simone, with pipes like that she could be the star's equal.
The 2 hour 35 minute "Soul Doctor" could make ample use of a scalpel. But it's easy to see how a few sublime moments in an otherwise flawed work could turn this musical about a cult hero into a cult favorite itself.