Soul of Shaolin

  • Date:
    January 1, 2009
    Review by:
    Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

    A Review by Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

    A master of Shaolin Kung Fu can withdraw his testicles into his body without touching them, making it impossible for an opponent to disable him with a kick to the groin. What's extraordinary about this ability besides the fact that it can be done, is that it isn't a myth. It is the result of the intense concentration that is the foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu.

    Kung Fu is not like other martial arts, and yet it incorporates techniques used by all of them. The difference is that, while judo, karate and tae kwon do emphasize limited forms of combat, kung fu is complex, incorporating spirituality and meditation, ultimately leading to a Master's search for inner joy and a glimpse of cosmic reality.

    Though Kung Fu is primarily defensive, it is also used for enriching daily life. The training, which originated in China's Shaolin Temple, begins as soon as a child can walk, and takes a lifetime to master.

    So when you think Kung Fu, don't think Bruce Lee. Think the Shaolin Temple Wushu Martial Artists, an extraordinary group of performers who are now on Broadway in the "Soul of Shaolin."

    Their storytelling demonstration of Kung Fu begins in Ancient China during wartime as the infant Hui Guang is separated from his mother by attacking marauders. The child is rescued and raised by monks in the Shaolin Temple where he starts his Kung Fu training. His mentor, Na Luo, instructs him in the unique practices of Shaolin Kung Fu, but it is only when he leaves the Temple to search for inner peace and worthiness that he gains wisdom, love and family.

    The precision of weaponry, the dance elements, the concentration, and power over the body, combined with the underlying themes of search for family and self make this martial arts story a soul-satisfying experience. "Soul of Shaolin" has appeal for all ages, as its message is ageless. Without words, volumes are spoken, and we appreciate the journey towards inner peace as we shake our heads at the wondrous possibility of it all.

    Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus

    What the press had to say.....

    "Mostly the show is a series of collective or individual displays of rhythmic acrobatics and crisply choreographed combat." & "The three performers who play the main character, Hui Guang, impress with their contortionist feats and physical prowess." & "Soul of Shaolin� ultimately seems a pretty cheap enterprise. The sets are mostly painted flats, and the music (by Zhou Chenglong) is recorded. "
    Charles Isherwood
    New York Times

    "There's a story of sorts, ....But it's mainly an excuse for the impressive performers - you may have caught them at the Beijing Olympics - to provide a dazzling display of their skills, many involving staffs and sabers, but mostly their masterful control of their own bodies." & "Director Liu Tongbiao has choreographed the proceedings with a precision that would put the Rockettes to shame. It all culminates in a final raucous battle, and the most athletic curtain calls probably ever seen on a Broadway stage.
    Frank Scheck
    New York Post

    "A martial-arts spectacular more suited to a theme park in Shanghai than the Great White Way." & "Long on acrobatics and short on story line, Soul of Shaolin is a moderately entertaining evening on its own terms, but if your soul craves more than kicks and chops, it leaves you hungry before the final curtain." & "When it sticks to the impressive feats of the Shaolin Temple Wushu Martial Artists, Soul can be fun and even awe-inspiring.... But the plot is as old as kung fu itself and accompanied by cheesy music and creaky narration."
    David Sheward
    Back Stage

    "A striking mixture of sentiment and strength, a soap-tinged, martial-arts tale of a devoted mother and her virtue-seeking son." & "But it is the demanding physicality in the show that counts. That movement celebrates an intense kind of discipline that borders on the spiritual and proves to be surprisingly sturdy Broadway entertainment. "
    Michael Kuchwara
    Associated Press

    "Like a swift kick to the head, "Soul of Shaolin" is a rushed, expertly trained assault that leaves you slightly confused afterward." & "Isn't a failure, exactly, but it doesn't hit its target often enough to be a success, either."
    David Rooney