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"Soul Doctor" Warms Up Circle in the Square with Culture and Musicality
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"Soul Doctor" Warms Up Circle in the Square with Culture and Musicality

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Jeremy Chess, Jerome Levy
et al.
Present:

Soul Doctor
(Soul Doctor Website)
(Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Bio)

Music and Additional Lyrics by Shlomo Carlebach
Book by Daniel S. Wise
Lyrics by David Schecter

Directed by Daniel S. Wise
Choreography by Benoit-Swan Pouffer

At
Circle in the Square
(Circle in the Square Website)
50th Street, at 1633 Broadway
NY, NY
212.239.6200

With: Eric Anderson
Amber Iman, Ron Orbach, Teddy Walsh, Jamie Jackson
Jacqueline Antaramian, Zara Mahler, Eric J. Stockton
Ethan Khudisman, Michael Paternostro, Diana Barger
Richard Cerato, Tara Chambers, Maria Conti,
Alexandra Frohlinger, Afra Hines, Abdur-Rahim Jackson
Dillon Kondor, Vasthy Mompoint, Ian Paget,
Heather Parcells, JC Schuster, Ryan Strand

Scenic Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: Maggie Morgan
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: John Shivers/David Patridge
Wig & Hair Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Creative Advisor: Wendy Goldberg
Press: Richard Kornberg
Production Consultant: Production Core
Orchestrations & Additional Arrangements:
Steve Margoshes
Music Supervision & Arrangements: Brian Koonin
Conductor, Music Director & Arranger: Seth Farber
Advertising & Marketing; SPOTCO
Promotions: Leanne Schanzer Promotions
General Manager: Bespoke Theatricals
Executive Producer: Red Awning
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Casting: Joy Dewing Casting
Production Stage Manager: Peter Wolf

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 21, 2013


About half-way into Act I of Daniel Wise’s new musical, Soul Doctor, I did not want this show to end. Circle in the Square theater was really warming up, the audience was leaning in, and the performance was turning into a 1960’s happening, with clapping, some humming, and a sense of communal experience. It mattered little whether Shlomo Carlebach (Eric Anderson), the onstage rabbinical character, was re-enacting the exact life story of the real-life Shlomo Carlebach (see Bio linked above), whether Carlebach and his family escaped the Nazis of Germany or Austria, whether he eventually married, or what his emotional psyche was all about. What really mattered was that Daniel Wise, Director of the show, who wrote the book, drew us in to this poignant, musical memoir, by closely connecting the audience to each character, never rushing the dialogue, never breezing through a scene. Circle in the Square is a large theatre, almost in the round. But the audience was made to feel as if it’s onstage in 1930’s Austria, then in Brooklyn Jewish neighborhoods, Yeshivas, and synagogues, then within the Greenwich Village jazz scene, then in 1960’s psychedelic, impassioned San Francisco, then in Jerusalem, and finally back in Vienna. Neil Patel’s colorful scenery evokes the sequential settings with simplicity and shimmer. Jeff Croiter’s lighting shifts from the dreary darkness of the Talmudic spaces to the candlelit piano room of Nina Simone.

Nina Simone (Amber Iman) develops her career in collaboration and friendship with Shlomo Carlebach, in the face of fierce opposition from families and their separate cultural circles. The two meet, when Shlomo ventures into the club, looking to see what jazz is. They close the scene in natural embrace. Both Mr. Anderson and Ms. Iman have clear, powerful vocal talent and mesmerizing stage personas. Both artists have a bright future, as they received enormous audience approval. Shlomo’s parents, Jamie Jackson and Jacqueline Antaramian, were well cast, as they exuded the expected strict disapproval of their son’s wandering religiosity and seemingly corrupted soul, but each came around in the final scenes, one after death. Teddy Walsh was well cast as Shlomo, the child, and he actually resembled Mr. Anderson in physique and expressiveness. Ethan Khusidman played Shlomo’s young brother, Eli Chaim, a role Ryan Strand assumed when the kids grow up, a great scene, as Shlomo tackles memorization of the entire Talmud, book by book, year after year. Reb Pinchas (Ron Orbach) and the Synagogue President (Eric J. Stockton) are thematical thorns in Shlomo’s existence, condemning and passing public judgment. Another artist to watch is Zara Mahler, as Ruth, a street singer in Washington Square Park, with a gorgeous voice, who falls deeply for Shlomo the man. Other prominent characters are Moisheleh (Michael Paternostro), an Austrian Jewish singing scholar and Shlomo’s Band Leader (Dillon Kondor). Should this musical be on tour on smaller stages, fewer characters would not detract from the cast’s cohesion; in fact, the largesse of this production’s cast and song list was sometimes challenging.

Speaking of the songs, the music is eclectic, with Rabbi Carlebach’s original music and some of the show’s lyrics, with all remaining lyrics by David Schecter. I found the songs inspiring and transporting, comprising those of the Vienna Beggars, Yeshiva Boys, Chassidim, Columbia Students, Churchgoers, Holy Beggars, Young Jewish Fans, and soloists. Songs were sung in English and Hebrew, ranging from “Arise!” (“Uforatztah”), “I Put a Spell on You”, “Ki Va Moed”, “Elijah Rock”, “Lord Get Me High”, to “Am Yisrael Chai”. Thanks to a bright sound design, by John Shivers and David Patridge, the songs resounded throughout the hall. Costumes were authentic and stunning, with Nina Simone in bright silky wraparound dresses and gold turbans, and Chassidim in traditional, long dark attire. And, Shlomo never took off his yarmulke. This is an expansive, complex show, with seamless momentum and spirit. Kudos to all, and kudos to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.



Eric Anderson and the Cast of "Soul Doctor"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



Amber Iman in "Soul Doctor"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



Zarah Miller in "Soul Doctor"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



Eric Anderson and the Cast of "Soul Doctor"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net