MONTREAL — Need a surefire musical cure? The doctor is in.
The Segal Centre and the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre presents “Soul Doctor: Journey of a Rock Star Rabbi,” a lighthearted musical tribute to Shlomo Carlebach, a.k.a. “The Singing Rabbi,” who became an important voice of the Jewish revival movement in the 1960s.
The play caps off Segal’s season and is indeed presented in Yiddish, but all can follow along with subtitles displayed on stage. This year’s production is co-directed by Bryna Wasserman, Segal’s former artistic director, and Rachelle Glait.
“‘Soul Doctor’ is about the healing power of music,” Glait said. “Music reaches our soul.
“Nina had it and Shlomo had it.”
Glait explains that she as well as Wasserman and Carlebach were all children of Holocaust survivors.
“And there were a lot of lost souls,” Glait said. “And we were all searching for some meaning.”
The timing was a 1960s Flower Power era of gurus, drugs and political movements, quite the contrary for Carlebach, who came from a very orthodox world.
“He was a brilliant rabbinical scholar,” Glait said. “They saw great things for him in this orthodox community.”
Great things did come, but not exactly how expected. Glait says that Carlebach was attracted to the Hassidic movement, but he also loved music and tried to bring his own “unorthodox” brand to a very orthodox religious realm.
“His style was not accepted,” Glait said. “Shlomo then moved into a more secular vision.
“And he became an incredible success.”
Born in 1925, New York and San Francisco were important musical stomping grounds for Carlebach, and he played the likes of the Village Gate in Greenwich Village and the Berkeley Folk Festival in San Francisco.
“He was on the same program as Bob Dylan,” Glait said. “But he never left the faith and remained an orthodox rabbi.”