Medical School Set to Music
When Michael Ehrenreich was a student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), he got into the habit of humming songs about medicine and joking with his wife about one day writing a musical with that theme.
The funny thing is, several years after graduating, that’s exactly what he ended up doing. His debut of “Medicine the Musical,” which he describes as “a drama with a lot of comedic relief,” is opening November 3 for a 14-show run in an Off-Broadway theater.
Ehrenreich, a dermatologist who earned his degree at New Jersey Medical School (then UMDNJ) in 2006, says the story of students making their way through their first year of medical school was inspired, in large part, by his own positive experiences.
“There are two or three moments in the show that have basis in reality,” he says. “Although it focuses on the interpersonal struggles and rigors of medical school and the realities of medicine, it’s not so much about medicine as it is about people working hard to achieve their dreams.”
Ehrenreich’s an expert at making his own dreams come true. Although he started out in investment banking and owned his own firm, medicine was always in the back of his mind.
“I was focused on biotech, drug development and medical investing,” he says.
When another company offered to buy his firm, Ehrenreich, who has a master’s degree in biology, decided to apply to New Jersey Medical School. He was 32.
“That first year, it was hard,” he says. “I was reading all the time. It was also challenging socially because I was a decade older than most of the other students. And there was some overlap in my careers until the sale of my firm was finalized.”
He remembers finishing his gross anatomy practical exam only to rush from the classroom to get on a plane to Boston, where he was hosting an annual conference for 140 companies.
“But the faculty at NJMS helped me get to where I am today,” he says.
Ehrenreich played the clarinet as a child and took a few guitar and piano lessons when he was in his 20s. He wrote “Medicine the Musical” in 2016 while his wife and two children were on a weeklong vacation.
“I like to capture small moments and use them productively,” he says. “When I was in med school, I always carried a book in my lab coat pocket so I could read between tasks. When my family was away, I found I suddenly had free time in the evenings.”
He wrote about half of the book, music and lyrics during that week and completed a first draft in three months.
“It just flowed,” he says.
With $25,000 he raised on Kickstarter plus some of his own money, Ehrenreich got the production off the ground.
Ehrenreich, now 48, doesn’t know whether “Medicine the Musical” will ever land on Broadway, but he does know that he owes a great debt to his alma mater.
“The show would never have been written without my odd path through New Jersey Medical School and my journey toward becoming a physician,” he says.
“Medicine the Musical,” Nov. 3-18, HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10013, http://medicinethemusical.com