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October 10th, 2013

jeff, birthday

Thoughts on "Soul Doctor"

I went on Wednesday to see Soul Doctor, a musical about the life of Shlomo Carlebach.   I was planning to see it after the holidays which only ended last week, but then heard it was going to close this coming weekend, so I  thought I should go to the matinee that day.   The reviews had been mediocre and had led me not to expect much, so I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, Eric Anderson was a credible Shlomo.  I know Shlomo for over 30 years and there was a lot right there.  The music was great, as expected.   I thought it would be weird that most of the Hebrew words were replaced with English, often not having that much to do with the original, but it mostly worked.

I was also expecting a trivial picture of Shlomo, with no depth.   There is some truth to that criticism, but the character is really trying to do something.  I agree there was a little too much "peace and love".  That was part of Shlomo's message, but he was rarely without a religious text in his hand and was a terrific teacher.   He interspersed his music with teaching, and my favorite times were when a house concert would, late at night, boil down to a few dozen people, and he would do more serious teaching.  Not much of a hint of that here. 

There is not much of a exploration of Shlomo's dark side.  He does break the heart of one young woman who falls in love with him, but Shlomo did get over his fear of contact with women and at times seems to have gone over what we would consider proper limits.   I think that is also part of the truth, but this show was created with the involvement of Shlomo's family, especially his daughter Neshamah, so this was not surprising.

One of my favorite scenes was Shlomo's first time in a recording studio.  They can't get a good recording because Shlomo can't stand still while he is singing, staying in front of the microphone.   Finally one of studio people grabs the mike and moves it with him.  Back in 1970 Shlomo sang at the first New York Freedom Seder in Battery Park(see second paragraph here.   Our only sound system was a bull horn and one had to sing directly into the mic, but Shlomo, in those days, could not sing without jumping up and down.   Finally Arthur Waskow took the mic, stood directly in front of Shlomo and they jumped up and down in unison, face to face, so Arthur could hold the mic in front of Shlomo's mouth.

As I said, the show is closing this Sunday, October 13.   Tickets are $135, but there are rush tickets available each day when the box office opens at 10 am, but there are also tickets way on the side for $39.  If the house is not full, which it was not when I was there, they let you move to a seat with a better viewing angle.