Soul Doctor, the new Broadway musical based on Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach‘s life, has all the charm and kitsch and cringe of the genre. Traveling full circle from Vienna and stopping in New York, San Francisco, and Israel along the way, the show features Nazis, Torah scrolls, Nina Simone, LSD, a rock-and-roll band, and, briefly, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson as a towering, glittering figure of wisdom.
And that’s just the first act.
Fusing his now-famous melodies with new English lyrics, this bio-musical tells an approximate story of Carlebach’s life, beginning with his escape from Nazi Europe. From there we go to New York, where the young man abandons yeshiva life in favor of spreading love and peace with his music, which ranges from fabulous musical numbers sung by twirling yeshiva bochers to intimate, candlelit ballads enchantingly performed by Nina Simone.
But those looking for a play about Carlebach’s controversial side won’t find as much with Soul Doctor. The musical makes no mention of any of the famed rabbi’s allegations of sexual harassment, choosing instead to focus on his surprising collaborations and his rousing, beautiful music.
Listen to one of Carlebach’s songs:
Watch a trailer for Soul Doctor: