Let’s face it: Katie Gilchrist is a rock star.
She certainly carries herself like one, and by putting the cap on Ry Kincaid’s “Pilgrimage” with a soulful anthem, she closed his ambitious show with a bang.
When Kincaid told me he was premiering a rock musical based on Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” at KC Fringe, my first thought was: Oh my. The potential for disaster seemed to be broad and deep.
There was no cause for apprehension, as it turned out. Kincaid’s show, staged loosely by Bob Paisley with something like a party atmosphere on stage, was an impressive piece of work in its final festival performance for a standing-room-only crowd at the Lyric Opera Center. Kincaid’s rhyming verse was clever and the songs were terrific, performed by an exceptional collection of musicians.
A relaxed sense of humor runs through the piece and even in the relatively spare staging before rows of doling chairs at the opera center, it left me wanting more.
Kincaid assumes the role of emcee as Chaucer, introducing each character before turning the mic over to each one to tell his or her story. Most the actor/musicians are multi-instrumentalists but the musical foundation was formed by Jerod Rivers on drums and Eryn Bates Preston, whose work on keyboards lifted the whole show.
Some of these folks are better singers than others, but the standout vocalists included Ben Byard as the Knight, Preston as the Nun, Vi Tran as the Reeve, Cody Wyoming using his hard-rock voice as the Pardoner, and of course Gilchrist, who appears as the Parson.
Damron Armstrong was at his comic best as the Summoner and was easily matched by the towering Nick Uthoff as the Squire. Sean Hogge turned in a nice comic performance of his own as the Miller, and he and Tran made the most of the amusing rivalry between the Miller and the Reeve.
Rivers played the Merchant from behind his drum kit. Amy Kelly, looking rather ethereal in a long white gown and an electric guitar strapped across her shoulder, made an impression as the Priest. Celia Gannon, a performer I was seeing for the first time, projected a larger-than-life flirtatious persona as the Wife of Bath. And Coleman Crenshaw was very funny as the Friar.
Kincaid is on to something with this show. The translation of Chaucer to a blues-rock idiom works quite nicely. I hope he keeps refining it because I certainly hope to see it again down the road.