Musical adaptations of other works often struggle to either make themselves distinct or justify their existence.
One Good Soul stands as a musical that is fun to watch and entertaining in its own, contradictory way
One Good Soul is about a woman named Shen Te, a prostitute who has been given wealth by a trio of goddesses due to her true goodness and charity. She is then tested in her goodness, by love, hate and every emotion in between. This setup provides an opportunity for shenanigans of the highest order, which is strange because the actions shouldn’t feel like shenanigans. Shen Te prevents a suicide, prostitutes herself, sells drugs and facilitates multiple all out brawls. But there’s something about the music that makes this all feel light and fun. That conflict between a story that demands grit and music that creates the opposite should make a show fall in on itself, but making the show a musical adds an element of self-awareness that keeps everything afloat. It takes a lot of confidence to pull off a musical whose message is that the world is evil and that love is bad, but this show has just enough to manage it.
This is helped greatly by the set and the way that the cast interacts with the band. Visually, the set was covered in colourful, yet grungy graffiti, immediately grounding the play in a space of heightened, absurdist reality. This strange absurdism in setting is expanded upon by the cast constantly entering and exiting the band. Flutes, bass guitars and more all enter and exit the stage with decent regularity, almost always played by the cast themselves. The exception is the band leader and musical director, Laurence T-Stannard, who served as the narrator and as a source of entertaining, fourth-wall-breaking reactions. His role was by no means innovative, but it was enjoyable and appreciated nonetheless.
Adapting a known work to a different medium is difficult, but One Good Soul manages to pull it off. With fun music, a light tone, and intriguing aesthetics, the show manages to beat the odds and become something worth watching. It isn’t perfect: blocking was often off and none of the individual performances particularly stood out out, but looking past that, One Good Soul stands as a musical that is fun to watch and entertaining in its own, contradictory way.