Interview by Paul Salfen
The Broadway movie-musical about the ‘rock star’ Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach and his history shaping relationship with music icon Dr. Nina Simone, in cinemas nationwide, Tuesday, June 13.
#HarmonyAcrossAmerica initiative brings 100,000 members of all communities together in theaters across the US for screening.
Black and Jewish Leadership Call nationwide screening “opportunity to come together to celebrate our common hopes and aspirations” and “a simple act of unity that will rekindle our memory of a rich relationship between Blacks and Jews”
Portrayal of Relationship is “antidote to those who seek to divide and sow discord between the Black Jewish communities.”
(New York, New York – June 9, 2023) Fathom Events and Lisa Simone present the film Soul Doctor, the Broadway movie-musical about the ‘rock star’ Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and his relationship with the music and civil rights icon Dr. Nina Simone.
The special nationwide screenings of Soul Doctor will take place in more than 600 select theaters for one night only on June 13. For tickets and information, please visit Fathom Events.
#HarmonyAcrossAmerica initiative celebrates the message of understanding and friendship portrayed by Simone and Carlebach. As a toolbox to help support a continued dialogue of understanding, a discussion guide will be available on the Soul Doctor website.
Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative (a coalition of 150,000 African-American churches working to eradicate social, racial, religious, & economic disparities) said, “The Black Church is emotionally overwhelmed and joyful to have discovered the rich history that existed between our beloved late sister Nina Simone and her powerful voice of singing the great folk and spiritual songs of the rich Jewish tradition. Who would have ever imagined that in 2023 she continues to bring Blacks and Jews together to practice Shalom – peace and unity
Renowned Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein said, “At this time of increased antisemitism and racism, and rising tensions in American society, the opportunity to come together to celebrate our common hopes and aspirations is of special importance. Soul Doctor is a unique film that tells the remarkable story of the relationship between the great Black jazz singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone and the prolific and popular Jewish singer and composer Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Their remarkable and little-known collaboration and friendship is an antidote to those who seek to divide and sow discord between the Black and Jewish communities.”
Audiences will be treated with a very special message at the beginning of the film’s new theatrical release by Executive Producer Lisa Simone, who states, “Soul Doctor is a testament to the healing power of music. It is medicine for the soul, plain and simple. The kinship between Nina Simone and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach demonstrates the influence we can have on each other when we look past our differences. Their impact on each other, and the world as we know it today, remains a beacon of what is possible when we follow our heart’s calling no matter the odds.”
Lisa Simone is the Executive Producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award winning, and Academy Award and Grammy nominated Netflix documentary about her mother, WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? She is also the recipient of the National Theatre Award for Best Actress in a musical for the title role in Disney’s AIDA and starred in the original cast of RENT on Broadway.
Rev. Evans added, “The National Black Church Initiative has a strong history of supporting the arts. We are deeply honored to work in unity with our Jewish brothers and sisters in highlighting the life and voice of our late and beloved sister Nina Simone. We have an eternal hope that this simple act of unity will rekindle our memory of a rich relationship between Blacks and Jews that started since the beginning of time — and is in desperate need of remembrance of the richness of our shared suffering and history together.”
About the nationwide screening of Soul Doctor, Hoenlein said, “On June 13, in theaters across America, people from all communities will be gathering together for a remarkable evening of entertainment, inspiration and a rededication to the commitment, values and courage inherent in the story of these two artists coming together. Those who remember them – and even more, those who don’t – must join together for this unique opportunity to learn from the past and reshape the future. Everyone will leave the theater feeling elevated, with a song on their lips!”
Soul Doctor tells the story of the beloved yet controversial father of popular Jewish music, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. A modern-day troubadour, Shlomo ignited the spirit of millions around the world with his soul-stirring melodies, transformative storytelling, and boundless love. After his childhood escape from Nazi Germany, the young Rabbi formed an unlikely friendship with musical icon and pioneer, Nina Simone, who introduced him to Soul and Gospel music, and a Jewish music and cultural revival was born. Fusing his roots with his new inspiration, Shlomo created a revolutionary musical sound, writing songs which continue to be the main body of Jewish musical standards. The “Jewish Gospel/Soul” experience he introduced to the synagogue worship remains the most popular of services across all denominations of Jewish practice. His anthem “Am Yisrael Chai” is sung by thousands of youths each year, in the procession to Auschwitz for March of the Living. The late Pope John Paul II often opened his stadium tour mass with Shlomo’s song of unity “Brothers and Friends”.
Soul Doctor the movie opens on the 10th anniversary of its Broadway premiere, at Circle in the Square Theater. The show was originally workshopped at National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and subsequent productions in New Orleans, Miami, and Off Broadway, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Roundabout Theatre Company (which featured India Arie as Nina Simone), The New York Theatre Workshop. Soul Doctor was the feature presentation at the “Israel at 70” Festival in Jerusalem, where the production was filmed.
With music by Shlomo Carlebach, lyrics by David Schechter, script and direction by Daniel Wise, and choreographed by Abdur Rahim Jackson (Alvin Ailey, Beyonce “Halo” music video and Superbowl Show), the film stars Tony Award® nominee Josh Young (Broadway’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita) as Shlomo, Nya (star of the recent Cleopatra and the Broadway revival of Caroline or Change) as Nina Simone.
The cast includes Charlotte Moore (Les Miz, ALW’s Wizard of Oz), C.J. Tyson (Wicked), Rebecca Kritzer (In the Heights), Marvin Meital, Yovel Moss, Allison Poccia, Lital Shalit, Toni Elizabeth White, Luke Wygodny (Once), Jordan Zell, and Marc Zell and original Broadway cast members: Richard Cerato and Abdur-Rahim Jackson (who also choreographs). Music direction is by Haim Tukatchinski with musical arrangements by Seth Farber, Brian Koonin and Bashiri Johnson. Film editor Or Benzrehim. Surround Sound design Ronen Nagal.
At a recent private screening of Soul Doctor, Dr. Naomi King (civil rights activist & sister-in-law of MLK) remarked: “Any person watching this movie, it’ll shake ’em, move ’em and change ‘em to help make this a better world!” Susannah Heschel (Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth, and daughter of Civil Rights icon Rabbi A.J. Heschel) remarked “Soul Doctor the Movie is a tribute to Nina Simone’s enormous influence. By inspiring and encouraging Shlomo Carlebach, Nina contributed to the extraordinary revival of Jewish music and spirit immortalized by Shlomo.”
Jewish Voice & Opinion recommends “For the full experience in the theater join the audience singing and dancing.”
Of the stage musical, The New York Times raved, “Inspiring and absorbing with beautiful music! A joyous Leaping Roar!” Time Out New York said, “a spectacular cross between Fiddler on the Roof and HAIR,” and The Examiner exclaimed,” A certifiable hit…Genius! Five stars.” The London Financial Times lauded, ” Whole libraries have been written about the similarities of historical struggle between Jews and African Americans. I have never seen them put across more eloquently than in Soul Doctor.”
“Soul Doctor’s writer/director Danny Wise said, “Our intention was to create a genuinely cinematic experience while maintaining the energy of the live performance; it’s exhilarating to see the movie theater audiences singing and clapping to the music!”
To make this a truly special event, Lisa Simone filmed an up-and-personal introduction exclusively for the Fathom audiences, along with a “Call, Clap & Sing Bootcamp” with famed Percussion Master Bashiri Johnson teaching audience how to Call, Step, Clap, and Sing.
Soul Doctor concludes with a historical epilogue showing rare footage, bringing to life Simone, Carlebach, and other characters, created by Colombian-born filmmaker Nicole Fernandez and Somondoco Films.
Soul Doctor the Movie is produced by original Broadway producer/conceiver Jeremy Chess, along with Jerome Levy and Chandra McQueen, with Lisa Simone executive producer.
Soul Doctor was originally produced on Broadway by: Jeremy Chess, Jerome Levy, Edward L. Steinberg, Robert Beckwitt, David Haft, Ken Abramowitz, Brian Murray and Joel Kahn, in partnership with Michael H. Steinhardt.
Tickets for Soul Doctor are on sale through the Fathom Events website and participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations, visit fathomevents.com (partic