The new musical Soul Doctor has opened to mixed but positive-leaning reviews in its limited Off-Broadway engagement at NYTW. For the record, the creative team includes Daniel S. Wise (book, direction), David Schechter (lyrics), Shlomo Carlebach (music, lyrics), Neil Patel (sets), Maggie Morgan (costumes), Jeff Croiter (Lights), Clive Goodwin (sound), Steve Margoshes (orchestration), Seth Farber (music direction), and Camille A. Brown (choreography).
The cast includes Eric Anderson (Shlomo), Erica Ash (Nina Simone), Dianna Barger (Linele), Merideth Kaye Clark (Ruth), Ryan Duncan (Timothy Leary), Joey Farber (Young Shlomo), Dionne Figgins (Seeker), Steven Hauck (Father), Cassi Quinn Kohl (Flower Child), Melana Lloyd (Pastor), Colin Campbell McAdoo (Nazi), Kenny Morris (Reb Pinchas), Julia Osborne (Wife), Devin L. Roberts (Sinner), J.C. Schuster (Holy Hippie), Emmet Smith (Young Eli Chaim), Rachel Stern (Mother), Ryan Strand (Eli Chaim), and Jamie Wax (Recording Engineer).
Michael Musto (Village Voice): I never heard of Shlomo Carlebach, but it turns out he was one of the biggest Jewish presences on the hit parade. … The show is long and unwieldy, but there’s some nice stuff, particular the bits between the rabbi and Nina. Shlomo (well played by Eric Anderson) comes across Simone (an absolutely wonderful Erica Ash) in a club. … He explains that he grew up in Vienna when the Nazis came in. That cements their bond, which proves to be pretty lovely and unconventional. I smell a spinoff … Shlomo and Simone? Or just Eric and Erica?
Frank Scheck (N.Y. Post): 3 out of 4 stars. The book by Daniel S. Wise, who also directed, tries to pack far too much into the proceedings, resulting in a choppy, episodic structure. … The show is most effective in its quieter moments, such as the wonderfully written and performed scene depicting Carlebach and Simone’s first meeting. … Fueling the evening are the nearly three dozen songs, most of them featuring Carlebach’s infectious melodies with new lyrics by Daniel Schechter. Their joyousness demonstrates the reasons for the performer’s success.
Jason Zinoman (N.Y. Times): Mr. Anderson’s understated acting style pays off here, and his onstage performances are the best part of this otherwise safe, mechanical portrait of a fascinating cultural figure. … Mr. Wise creates the framework for a potentially fascinating show but doesn’t fill it in with the necessary psychology or personality to make his protagonist vivid. … It comes alive, however, when Mr. Anderson bursts into song. That’s when Soul Doctor stops treading carefully and begins to stomp.