When a show starts with the cast inviting the audience to come on stage for free beer, you know you’re in for a very different musical experience at the Durham Performing Arts Center; and that’s exactly what happened with The Choir of Man, which played DPAC for one night only this past Saturday night. The nine men who make up the choir gave everyone what they promised: a rollicking good time in a setting most of us would recognize, an English pub.
After a late start due to audio issues, the show’s Narrator (Denis Grindel) ensured that the audience started the night off right, with a preshow that encouraged everyone to participate in a “Mexican wave” and to come onstage for free beer. Once everyone was warmed up and scooted off stage to their appropriate seats, he introduced the raucous group of performers as old friends, the kind of people who stop by after work to have a beer with you.
Through the performance, the audience learns their personalities, their stories, loves, and talents. And through it all, the music, the dancing, and the fun keep on coming!
The show, produced by Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay (who’ve worked together to produce North by Northwest: The Play, the Soweto Gospel Choir, and The Magnets), premiered in Edinburgh in 2017 and brings with it the same British Isles flavor of “lift a pint” to the American stage. The cast has performed all over the U.K. and Australia, but the show at DPAC is their only one in North Carolina this year.
The music is as fabulously fun as the singers themselves, including an explosive opening with Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle,” a high-energy, feel-good number that sets the tone for the evening. There are no “frills or frippery” in this pub.
Throughout the show, audience members join the choir (and some are as funny, if not more so, than the men themselves). During The Choir’s version of Rupert Holmes’ “ Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” Beast (Peter Lawrence) serenades a very willing and hilarious female participant, bringing hoots and hollers from the crowd. And in Adele’s “Hello,” the crew does an a capella version that is both tongue-in-cheek and brilliant, with Casanova (John Sheehy) providing some fabulous falsetto moments. The song is done in the midst of a televised sports event with the characters moving in slow motion, a very effective theatrical moment.
Each of the cast members shines at some point, whether it’s the tapping of Freddie Huddlestone during Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” or Andrew Carter’s gorgeous bass during “The Impossible Dream (The Quest).” They tackle “Chandelier” with enthusiasm for an amazing performance, they harmonize perfectly on The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” and they bring everyone to tears with a beautiful rendition of Luther Vandross’ “Dance with My Father.”
The Choir not only sing and dance but also play instruments, with each member picking up a guitar or violin, piano or bagpipes (Connor Going as Piano-Man). And they bring a moment of thoughtfulness to the stage when Tom Brandon (Hard-Man) sings the opening lines “We’re all someone’s daughter. We’re all someone’s son,” from John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice,” we can’t help but think of recent events in our world.
Moments of hilarity, coupled with truly poignant scenes and rollicking versions of recognizable songs, make for an evening of pure enjoyment. All together the moments make for one of the best concerts, pub crawls, and/or musical shows this year! If they return to North Carolina, make sure you see The Choir of Man!
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 30th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-Wildly-Entertaining-CHOIR-OF-MAN-Brings-Joyous-Romp-to-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20181030 and Oct. 25th BWW Interview with Denis-Grindel, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-THE-CHOIR-OF-MANS-Denis-Grindel-Raises-a-Glass-to-Ireland-Friendship-and-Manhood-in-Advance-of-DPAC-Show-20181025; and Oct. 24th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”: https://www.wral.com/pub-rock-choir-of-man-brings-bar-fun-to-durham/17940070/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 26th Triangle Review review by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/10/the-international-musical-sensation-the-choir-of-man-will-roar-into-dpac-on-saturday-oct-27th/.)
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9ArI9wD5kzRmiK4-piYsmg.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-choir-of-man-at-dpac-on-october-27.
THE TOUR: http://www.thechoirofman.co.uk/casts-creative/north-america/, https://www.facebook.com/thechoirofman/, https://twitter.com/choirofman, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9ArI9wD5kzRmiK4-piYsmg.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.thechoirofman.co.uk/casts-creative/creative-team/.
The Choir of Man (London theatrical production): http://www.thechoirofman.co.uk/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/thechoirofman/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/choirofman (Twitter page), and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9ArI9wD5kzRmiK4-piYsmg (YouTube).
NOTE: Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.