Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Music

Pub show has feel-good factor

21 January 2020

Rosalind Appleby says Choir of Man is a winner with its mix of friendly welcome, pop ballads and sizzling showbiz.

Review: Andrew Kay and Nic Doodson, The Choir of Man ·
The Ice Cream Factory ·
Review by Rosalind Appleby ·

It started in a small venue at Edinburgh Fringe four years ago and the charm of nine British/Irish guys singing pub ballads has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

The Choir of Man made their West Australian debut on the weekend as part of Fringe World, and if their first show is anything to go by, it won’t take long for Perth to sign up to the fan base!

As George, the MC of sorts, introduced the lads and kicked off the first song, it was easy to relax into the banter of “nine guys who like to sing, drink and talk”.

There’s Tom the piano prodigy, “the southern Strauss, who could’ve been Debussy but he likes the juice”, the talkative barman who plays violin and wants somebody to love (cue the Queen anthem), and a tradie, Ben, who builds by day and reads poetry by night.

But it’s not all pub casual: a lot of spit and polish has gone into this, as you would expect from Melbourne-based producers Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay (the team behind the Soweto Gospel Choir).

The highly choreographed show includes everything from acrobatics to tap dancing, complete with a sharp lighting show and a ton of very fine musicianship.

Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is underpinned by the percussive flair of a tap routine; Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” is delivered as a barbershop-style serenade to an audience member. The stage oozes charisma as the lads toss instruments around, pass out beer and turn the bar into a dance platform.

By the time they launched into a stripped-back version of Adele’s “Hello” with just a bass guitar and nine voices in close harmony, the audience were eating out of their hands and didn’t need inviting to join in belting out Farnham’s “The Voice”.

George intersperses the songs with poetry by Ben Norris, prosaic with the odd rhyming couplet. It takes the show deeper, confronting unhealthy male stereotypes. “This isn’t a leave-it-outside kind of place, or a boys-don’t-cry kind of place,” George explains.

It’s the mix of friendly welcome, pop ballads and sizzling showbiz that makes this show such a winner – I would recommend it to everyone from my niece to my nanna.

The Choir of Man are in Perth for three weeks before the tour continues to Adelaide, but book now because these guys will sell out.

The Choir of Man runs until 9 February 2020.

Pictured at top: The Choir of Man has everything from ballads to tap-dancing and acrobatics. Photo: David and Chris Cann

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She was co-managing editor and founding board member of Seesaw Magazine 2018 – 2023, is author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine (UK). She loves park percussion instruments.

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