“Souled Out” is making me realize something. I am not fond of plots in musicals. Who needs them? Theater, like everything else at Yale, just takes itself too seriously. But director Michael Blume got the right idea. His vision: Create a show that drives itself, sans storyline or characters or stage props.
What we have here consists of unadulterated passion for music. Like a friend of mine said, the show knows full well what it is — a musical revue of soulful 60s/70s tunes, and it does not pretend to be anything else. Granted, this friend is part of the musical’s 12 soul singers. Sure, they all don jeans and Converses. Who cares? Sure, the cast consists of imposing Duke’s Men, MixedCo damsels, a lovely Something Extra and one passionate Shades renegade. It’s a cappella galore. What could be better? You are guaranteed amazing performances, but better yet, their experience only adds to the vision and purpose of the show.
The musical’s prowess needs no introductions or justifications. Tickets for “Souled Out” sold out pretty quickly. Mind the pun. Forget about getting a seat if you are waitlisted. Everyone who got tickets wants to go. They know it, and you know it as well. Deal with it.
But how to review a musical that lacks a storyline, rounded characters and scenery? You can’t — it’s impossible. You just need to go, see, feel, experience, close your eyes and think of nothing else but the music sifting through your ears.
The production itself does not prolong. Numbers are quick, powerful and sharp — like the archetypal ripping of the band-aid, except all you feel is bliss and thrill at the prospect of the next performances. The finishing number, in all honesty, made me smile, laugh, clap and count the beat all at the same time. I will not reveal more details because you will definitely want to be surprised.
That is what this show really is: a pleasant surprise. Fresh, novel and exciting, “Souled Out” is what every Yale show should aspire to be. You go to musicals in the first place to enjoy the tunes, the presentation itself. No one wants a narrative that strings the songs into one drawn-out connected story. Everyone seeks the “music” in musical and rolls with it. Everthing you see on stage is raw and electrifying: You tap your feet to “Martha And The Vandellas,” or smile at Alejo Caron’s show-appropiate afro. But you cannot really single out one performance as being the most moving or most amusing. I tip my hat off to Alex, Yael, Taylor, Devon, Henry, Liz, Esther, James, Sam, Jay, Stephanie, Ben and the crew, all of who will provide you with the purest form of entertainment.