The Choir of Man. Photographed by Prudence Upton. Image supplied.

What do you get when you mix beer, a pub, nine young guys and a few musical instruments?

The Choir of Man is a unique musical group who first emerged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017. The original group has expanded into three franchised acts – one in Europe, one in Australia and the other in the Americas. They are very much live white males. 

Recreating a dark wood pub with leadlight features and a working beer tap (as well as a questionable urinal); the backdrop to the show is practical and welcoming. Prior to the show, the audience is invited onto the stage for a beer with the boys and there are several brews passed around to audience members during the show. Interaction continues with audience members brought onto stage to be serenaded – its a fun night out.

Last time the choir came to Australia, they enjoyed a sell-out Sydney season. And once word is out that theyre back again, the show is sure to repeat this feat.

Its a high energy show, with a little of the Tap Dogs magic thrown in with some stomping and some actual tap dancing by Jordan Oliver. The narrator sets the scene – the pub, a dwindling traditional meeting place making way for the residential towers going up in cities all around the world. He also introduces the cast – giving their backgrounds and character traits.

The nine men in the current cast are drawn from Ireland, England, Wales and the Channel Islands – Tom Brandon, Denis Grindel, Danny Harnett, Dickie Lock, Ali Higgins, Matt Beveridge, Peter Lawrence, and Mark Loveday. All personable and all blessed with exceptionally strong voices.

Each has his role – Tom is the hard man, Denis is the narrator, Danny is the joker, Dickie is the bore (and also the baritone), Ali is the piano man, Matt the Cockney Casanova, Peter the loveable bear and Mark is the publican. According to the creators, the men are just playing exaggerated versions of themselves.

Its pub music, from The Proclaimersjaunty I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), Paul Simons 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Queens Somebody To Love and the rousing Australian anthem, You’re the Voice (which had been a top three hit in the UK) by John Farnham, to a little bit of classic musical fare with The Man of La Manchas The Impossible Dream, Sias Chandelier, the Red Hot Chilli PeppersUnder the Bridge, Adeles Hello, Katy Perrys Teenage Dream, Eagle-Eye Cherrys Save Tonight, Avicii’s Wake Me Up and the ultimate drinking crowd pleaser, Rupert HolmesEscape or commonly known as the Piña Colada song – there’s something for everyone. Recently, they even promoted the show on TV with a rendered version of The Horses by Ricki Lee Jones and Daryl Braithwaite.

While there are instruments in the production including the piano, guitar, drums, trumpet and flute – there are several songs where the boys sing a cappella. Their voices are wonderful together and the arrangements are perfectly executed. The standout number for me was the KinksWaterloo Sunset performed a cappella, which music guru Glenn A Baker believes might just be the best version of the song hes ever heard, and hes probably heard them all (and they include the Kinks themselves and David Bowie).

The Choir of Man is the latest production from the creative minds of Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay – the team responsible for the Soweto Gospel Choir and the award-winning North By Northwest (which recently played in Melbourne).

Based in Melbourne, Kay has over 30 years experience in the performing arts. In 2015, Kay and Doodson created Gobsmacked!, a completely a cappella theatre show that has played in London, Edinburgh, and Hong Kong.

Theres stomping, dancing, singing and drinking! For anyone who enjoys the atmosphere of a good old Irish or English pub, this is a show not to miss.

Where: Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne
When: Sydney till Sunday 1 December 2019 and Melbourne from 28 December 2019 – 12 January 2020
Cost: from $59
For more information visit: Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne

Feature image: The Choir of Man. Photographed by Prudence Upton. Image supplied.

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