Art & Music Chicago Theater

Kunlun Myth: When Viewing a Foreign Show Goes Right

Monday, September 07, 2015 Mykah Williams

Life's all about trying new things right? This week I decided to go on an adventure that I'd never considered going on before: To see a musical....that wasn't in English. Okay, so truthfully, I didn't know the whole show would be in Chinese when I first glanced upon the online brochure, but the surprising thing about it all was that, in a way, it almost didn't even matter.

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This past Wednesday the brand new musical, "Kunlun Myth" debuted at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. The show surprised me in a lot of ways! I never thought I would be able to enjoy a production where I couldn't understand the dialogue, whether it was from technical issues or a lack of dictation. However, I literally didn't even know any of the words spoken in, "Kunlun Myth" and I still enjoyed it much more than other musicals I have seen in English. 

The narrative follows university student from Bejing, Deng Fei. One day, Deng Fei decides to venture up the mystical Kunlun Mountains and he meets Mei Duo the beautiful daughter of the tribe leader on top of the Kunlun Mountains. While on top of the mountain, Deng Fei comes across the relic of the Heaven Pillar and discovers that it transports him into the Heavens.

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While in heaven he meets the Goddess of the West, who with the help of the other gods, is attempting to urge Gong Gong, the stories lead villian, to reconstruct the heaven Pillar he destroyed with his powers over water. 

Deng Fei and Mei Duo work together to attempt to restore the Heaven Pillar despite Meng Duo's father and the rest of her tribe desperately trying to keep them apart. But in the end, they discover that they must be forever separated to bring peace to the earth and heavens despite their deep connection.

While I don't speak a word of Chinese myself, I could still feel the emotional impact of the characters and the scenes as strongly as if I was fluent in the language. It was very interesting how even though the script of the musical was not in English the audience could still evoke what the characters where feeling, and therefore almost what they were saying. 

Luckily though, if you do decide to see the show, the song lyrics and subtitled on monitors on either side of the stage so you can understand quite a bit of the story just from reading the character's laments as they perform. 

Not only was the story beautiful, but the set was also visually stunning. The set designers clearly knew what they were doing as the shows lighting always perfectly reflected the mood of moment. The show was incredibly colorful and vibrant in a way that I haven't seen on any other stage before.  And as someone who loves a good costume, I have to say, they were equally superb. Particularly that of the Sun Goddess, and of course our leading lady Mei Duo had several unique pieces.

Despite all the beauty of the set, costumes, and the engaging story, the most memorable part of the show was most definitely the vocals. Every voice in the show had an amazingly pure tone, the voices seemed to cut right through you, in the most wonderful way possible of course. In the opening scene Mei Duo has a beautiful solo that stuck with me through out the course of the show and the finale song was just as catchy.

 I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the theatre that didn't speak Chinese, and that didn't keep any of us from singing along with (and most likely butchering) the foreign lyrics.

My point is; If you are a theatre buff that has never seen a show performed by the CPAA (The China Performing Arts Agency) I strongly recommend putting, "Kunlun Myth" on your list of musical "must-sees". 

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