Edinburgh Fringe 2019
An hour of high-energy music performed in a pub setting by nine singer/instrumentalists
A chap walks into a pub. Change that. A chap walks into a pub with 800 of his friends. That is the feeling when you step into the theatre for Choir of Man. You and 800 of your friends are out for a good time. You are all invited onto the real working bar on stage to have a pint and party with the lads. Turns out that the lads are a choir but not your traditional choir. They sing pop tunes, tap dance, and play instruments. And they are fun and friendly and ready to party!
Choir of Man is another musical production from creative minds of Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay, who brought Soweto Gospel Choir, The Magnets, and now Noise Boys to the Fringe. They know how to construct a program that is engaging, well-timed, and grabs audiences of all ages. The singers started in London as an a cappella ensemble and grew into a stage show. It has developed enough in sophistication and popularity that it is touring the world.
The show starts with audience members on stage drinking in a “proper old-school pub” with the cast, and it’s free beer all around. We meet the characters, each of the nine performers having a distinct moniker. There’s the philandering barman, the charming and cuddly construction worker, the joker, the pub bore, and more. The combination of personalities gives the piece a dimension beyond just the musical performance.
The music is lively. We all know the songs. From Paul Simon to Adele to Jimmy Buffet, we’re singing along. Each piece is put into a skit that tells a story about one of the characters to give it some context. “Welcome to the Jungle” sets the tone for the night. “Wake Me Up”, “500 Miles”, “Some Nights”, “Chandelier”, “The Impossible Dream”, “You’re The Voice”, “Teenage Dream”, “Waterloo Sunset”, “Under the Bridge” and the “Pina Colada Song – Escape” are performed with well-constructed harmonies accompanied on a variety of instruments. Not all of the group members are great solo singers, but the combination is strong. The musicians handily play piano, guitar, banjo, drums, mandolin, and violin. They smoothly switch between leads with a loosely written story line.
There is more audience interaction in the show. Singers choose people to bring on stage to serenade or have fun with, creating some wonderful comic moments. The most beautiful and moving piece is the finale, “The Parting Glass”, a Scottish traditional song, often sung at the end of a gathering of friends, performed completely a cappella. It captures the spirit of the pub and our hearts.
There’s a message in the show. The group is lamenting the closing of old-time pubs and community halls to make way for apartment towers. The pub was the gathering place for friends and family. What’s to replace it?
By the end of the performance, everyone in the audience is on their feet, singing at the top of their lungs. It’s a feel-good show. You leave with a smile and a song in your head.