"THE ONE TRUE THING" is the “prequel” to McKenna and Keeling’s acclaimed musical adaptation of “HEIDI” and its sequel
“JOHANNA AND HEIDI” but is a completely stand-alone project and was the last show to be commissioned in a unique musical trilogy. It is a story about love in all its forms, about being young and trying to carve out a place in the world. Like being young, the show is, by turns, funny, romantic, dramatic and moving. It tells the parallel stories of the young Johanna and of the imaginary
village which will, in time, become the setting for her famous novel, “Heidi”.
19 year old Johanna Heusser lives with her religious fanatic mother and overworked doctor father in a house full of invalids, waifs and strays. When she needs to get away, which is often, she goes to her special place in the mountains, from where she can see beyond the world she knows. Here, sometimes, Johanna meets a girl of her own age, Adele (Adelheid). Soon we realise that Adele is an imaginary friend, and that the mountain village she lives in is also fiction. Adele lives the life that Johanna would like to-a life where people look after one another.
We follow the story of both girls as Johanna ‘shapes’ Adele’s life in the light of her own experiences. Adele’s story becomes the
‘back story’ to “Heidi”. Johanna’s parents want her to marry the dull civil servant, Spyri, though she falls for the charms of Heinrich Luethold, a fiery young poet who encourages her to challenge all the conventions of 1850s society. When Johanna has a chance to study in Zurich, where Heinrich lives, she believes that they will run off together and do great things.
This is contrasted with Adele’s village life and steady love for a young carpenter, Tobias. Drama comes when Tobias’s soldier father, long believed dead, turns up. Tobias cannot forgive Jakob for abandoning him. Adele manages to heal the rift, she and Tobias marry and soon she is pregnant. A happy ending seems imminent.
Then, in Zurich, Johanna has a terrible shock. She discovers that Heinrich is in love with someone else. Her world falls apart and, because she cannot be happy, she doesn’t want anyone else to be happy either. Johanna smashes the happy family she has created not realising how far the consequences will reach: Tobias is killed in a terrible accident and Adele dies giving birth to their child. How Johanna and Jakob come to terms with loss, and find strength to carry on, is the surprising, moving and ultimately uplifting climax of the show.