Sophie Adnitt reviews The Choir Of Man now playing at the Arts Theatre, London.
The Choir of Man
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Wednesday night is the new Friday night, or at least that’s how it feels at The Choir of Man, the all-singing, all-dancing, all-drinking show newly arrived at the Arts Theatre after touring extensively around the world. Except instead of the Arts we’re transported to The Jungle, a good old-fashioned, if curiously named, pub, which seems to have been dubbed as such, purely so the company can shoehorn in a cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle. Well, why not?
Some pubs have a football team, others a darts team. The Jungle has a choir, the nine-strong cast of The Choir of Man, plus its excellent live band. Admittedly the titular choir are a lot cleaner, better dressed and decidedly more good-looking than your usual group of pub regulars, but hey, nobody’s complaining. They consist of various stock figures (the hardman, the joker, a hopeless romantic, the one who ‘takes care of things’) but heartfelt little personalisations help to take them beyond stereotype.
Early audience arrivals have the chance to mingle onstage, grabbing a pint with the choir before things really kick-off, and The Choir of Man hurtles through 90 hugely entertaining minutes of live covers, in smart arrangements courtesy of musical supervisor Jack Blume. This inclusion continues throughout, with free pints and packets of crisps liberally passed out and a handful of audience members even being treated to onstage serenades.
The tone of the evening is a little uneven, shifting suddenly from moments of great seriousness to, well, not so seriousness. Tricky topics like gentrification and male mental health are touched upon but sit awkwardly alongside the fact that the cast binge ‘drink’ their way through seemingly endless onstage pints. The sound mix in the more raucous numbers also needs refinement – this may be more of a flaw with the Arts as a venue, but it’s a tragedy to lose any of the stunning vocals that are the true highlights of The Choir of Man.
There’s not much of a narrative, but that’s okay – you’re really here for the songs. Every number in an eclectic setlist is fantastically performed, but highlights include an astonishing cover of Adele’s Hello, done with tremendous dignity by Miles Anthony Daley, tellingly isolated from his comrades, who distractedly celebrate a football match in slow motion around him.
Renditions of Somebody to Love, Some Nights and The Pina Colada Song threaten to quite literally bring the house down, while a truly gorgeous version of The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset serves as a love letter to hometowns everywhere. There’s a dreamy acapella cover of Sia’s Chandelier and a magical, totally acoustic take on The Parting Glass bids the audience farewell at last orders.
The cast are universally brilliant, and special mention must be made of this performance’s three swings (George Bray, Matt Beveridge and Sam Beveridge), fitting so seamlessly into their roles that a triple check of the programme cast list was required to confirm they don’t play these parts full time.
The Choir of Man is ultimately an exuberant tribute to community, togetherness and everything lost over lockdown. The result is an evening of irresistible fun, completely impossible to walk away from without a smile on your face.