Tonight I got to see the "Soul of Shaolin" show at the Marquis Theater on Broadway. It's an amazing spectacle of shaolin-style kung fu and acrobatics, with twenty-some martial artists displaying near superhuman feats. It's inspiring just seeing what the human body is capable of with discipline and years of training. I particularly enjoyed the segment involving a trio of youngsters pretending to be various animals from a monkey to a lion to a frog. And the one-armed martial artist was particularly inspiring and talented.
That said, there was a certain sameness that came over the show after the first few acts, with no significant tonal difference between the fighting and choreography in the opening piece and the ones that followed. Everything was very stylized and beautiful, but needed more variety in my mind. It didn't help that all of the performers, with one exception, were bald Chinese men, almost all in identical outfits. Even the Playbill gives you no information about who these performers are, strangely enough.
The plot was extremely cheesy and maudlin by Western standards, with heavy-handed voiceovers hitting you over the head with THE MESSAGE. Since the performers don't speak, there's a lot of dramatic gesturing that reminded me of silent pictures… and not in a good way. In true Chinese form, the canned music was orchestral and sweeping, which sounded melodramatic and distracting to me.
"Soul of Shaolin" is a great family show, since it has a very simple plot, non-stop action, and a moral at the end. If you are a martial artist, you will appreciate the athleticism and artistry of the performers. But if you are looking for more depth and artistry in your theater experience, you might want to think twice about "Soul of Shaolin."