Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Soul Doctor will be in...

I'll bet that very few of you know anything of "Shlomo, the Musical." This was a recent off-Broadway musical that documented the life of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the so-called "singing rabbi" from New York, whose life has become something of a legend. Carlebach, whose followers called him Reb Shlomo, has come to be regarded as one of the most important Jewish songwriters of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Some of his more important contributions include "Am Yisroel Chai," "Barchi Nafshi" and "Kiva Moed." During the last two decades of his life, he became so popular that many of his outdoor public performances held in the United States, in Israel and other venues attracted thousands of followers and resembled rock concerts. Even today there are Carlebach minyonim (prayer gatherings of ten or more) that feature many of the rabbi's more heartfelt prayers. One of the original schluchim (emissaries) from the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Schneerson, Carlebach could trace his roots back to several influential rabbis in Germany. He was born in Berlin in 1925, one of two twin boys and moved with his family to Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania and Great Britain before coming to the United States. His father, Rabbi Naftali Carlebach, became the spiritual leader of a small synagogue in Manhattan's West Side. Both Reb Shlomo and his twin Rabbi Eli Chaim Carlebach took over their father's pulpit following his death in 1967. What established Reb Shlomo as such an important Jewish personage was his ability to do outreach to Jews and to very diverse groups in New York. This included, for example, several Baptist churches in the area. Many religious leaders and their congregations found him to be a very spiritual man, professing tolerance and acceptance of all of the Creator's children. The show closed off-Broadway some time back, but has been retooled and is being presented from May 7 through May 12 at Le Petit Théatre du Vieux Carré. Now retitled "Soul Doctor," it promises to be a must-see for all of the Jewish community here as well as regular theatre goers who are interested in seeing a genuine Broadway production before it reaches the Great White Way. Regular readers of this blog will recall one of Rabbi Carlebach's two daughters, Neshama, who is a recording artist in her own right. She is actively involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans (click here) and recently performed for the benefit of Mazon, the organization that fights hunger and the St. Bernard Project (click here). Both her father and her recordings can be found at Sojourn Records. For a listing of some of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's recordings click here. For Neshama's recordings, click here. Shows run Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., skip a day on Saturday and start again on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. with a special Mother's Day Brunch. Night shows will follow at 7:00 p.m. on May 10-12 with a matinee performance being held at 2:00 p.m. on May 12. For more information on ticket availability at Le Petit Theatre for the run of "Soul Doctor," call 504-522-2081

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