Wednesday, July 25, 2012

KC Fringe "Pilgrimage" review by kellyluck

Top notch, tight, and rocking hard
Rating: 5

KC Fringe Festival

Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" are rightly regarded as a classic of English literature--indeed, it is one of the oldest works written originally in recognizable English. A collection of pilgrims heading to Canterbury while away the hours by telling a story, each in turn. Time and the obscurities of language have masked a lot of the meaning and subtleties in this work, so it easy to forget that quite a large amount of it is quite ribald. This is not a serious work, oh no. But the centuries have given it gravitas, and its leering wit has been all but forgotten.

Good thing we've got Ry Kincaid to remind us.

"Pilgrimage" is a musical performance--a concert with linking stories, so to speak--in which Chaucer's characters tell their tales in song. Kincaid has done an excellent job of bringing the characters and stories forward to the modern age, leaving them surprisingly intact. We move briskly from tale to tale, each telling a story that, more often than not, reveals a bit more about themselves than the subject at hand. The songs throughout are extremely well done, moving easily through the genres (Country, pop, ballad, even metal) with equal skill. Musically, the ensemble is tight across the board, with no real weaknesses apparent. The pilgrims, who both sing and play throughout the piece, prove themselves able singers and comedic actors. This is very much an ensemble piece, so one cannot really single out a particular performer (can they all be standouts? Can you even do that?).

In fact, the only real complaint I have is a technical one. It seemed that on a few occasions the instruments were drowning out the voices, which made it difficult to get the words. This is unfortunate, as they lyrics tended to be quite clever and I'm sorry I missed the ones I did. Bringing the band down a bit, I think, would go a long way toward rectifying this.

Chaucer's "Canterbury" is a classic for a reason. And the Lyric Opera rehearsal space last night was packed for very much the same reason: that good stories, well and entertainingly told, will always bring 'em in. Kincaid and his ensemble are to be congratulated on an excellent production. And if, in the fullness of time, an original cast album should appear, I for one would be first in line. Just saying.

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