The Choir of Man

The Studio, Sydney Opera House. Mar 20 – Apr 7, 2019
Photo : Jordan Munns

Reviewed : March 21, 2019

A blast! A rage! A ball! Whatever idiomatic superlative you use, it probably isn’t enough to describe the vibe and energy of the nine cheeky, gifted English ‘lads’ who are The Choir of Man. Arunaway hit at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017, and fresh from the 2019 Adelaide Fringe festival, the boys have hit NSW running – and dancing and singing – in a rousing production that makes the spirit soar.

The ever-transforming Studio has become the bar of their local pub, the Jungle. There is beer on tap, a piano and typically ‘pub worn’ furniture. The guys mix with the audience pre-show, sharing a beer, chatting, answering questions. They are easy-going, welcoming, funny, incredibly personable and, as they soon begin to prove, also incredibly multi-talented.

George, the Narrator (in between singing, dancing, and playing the piano and the trumpet), becomes an affable raconteur. In his slightly London-ised north-country accent, he introduces the guys and the “no frills or frippery” pub scene where they meet. Between numbers, in a rhymed and rhythmic script, he skilfully re-sets the changing moods of the production, taking the audience through ‘the easy casualties of time’ and the moving ‘stories of the here and now that fill my cup’. His own interpretation of “Dance With My Father Again” is one of the most beautiful moments of the production.

They are easy-going, welcoming, funny, incredibly personable and, as they soon begin to prove, also incredibly multi-talented.

Nine men with powerful voices, in flawless harmony, with perfectly timed choreography and playing a range of instruments – piano, violin, guitar, ukulele, trumpet, Irish bodhran drum, banjo, melodica, electric percussion – use some of the best-known and most-loved songs of our time to take the audience to “sacred spaces of all kinds”.

Love is described in the rich notes of “The Impossible Dream”, a beautifully harmonized version of Adele’s “Hello” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love” – and raunchy renditions of “Escape” (The Pina Colada Song) and “Fifty Ways to Lose Your Lover”.  Memories are revisited in Sia’s “Chandelier” and a poignantly mellow interpretation of “Waterloo Sunset”. And the audience stomps along with “500 Miles” – and stands up, unified, to the potent notes of “You’re the Voice”.

Photo : Jordan Munns

This is ‘song and dance’ with a real difference. Though the ‘lads’ give the impression they are ‘just mates’ that love doing what they do, every aspect of the production is tightly controlled and precisely managed, just as something this good has to be. And because of that, it’s the sort of production that leaves you wanting more, wanting to tell your friends, wanting to see it again, making you buy the CD so you can re-live the moments with a Parting Glass.

The men are going to be rocking the Opera House for three short weeks before they move on to Canberra and then America. Get to see them before the word gets around and while there are still tickets available!

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine