The mood is set as soon as you walk into the theatre. It’s like you’ve stumbled into your local watering hole on a Sunday afternoon where some lively lads are engaging in friendly banter with strangers, and free pints of craft beer are being dispensed from the on-stage bar. By the time the show begins the room is warm and buzzing and it stays that way right through to the end.
It’s hard to define exactly what The Choir Of Man is in terms of genre – cabaret/sing-a-long/pub theatre – but it’s easy to define the effect: exhilarating, joyous, moving, funny, energising.
The talented troupe of eight young men from the UK and Ireland, each with their own distinctive persona, recreate a classic, traditional pub environment. George Bray, who acts as the ‘narrator’, says it’s about a men’s space that is supportive, safe, and unpretentious; where they take the “toxic” out of intoxication. There’s no real storyline. Bray performs verses of a ballad style poem between songs, slowly revealing details of each personality on stage. The songs are familiar pop tunes that range over styles and eras, from the operatic 1965 The Quest (The Impossible Dream) to the calypso style Escape (1979) to a surprisingly ethereal version of Chandelier to the everybody-join-in resounding strains of Wake Me Up and You’re The Voice. There are some very tender moments too, in particular, a heart squeezing rendition of Dance With My Father and a hair prickling chorus of The Parting Glass.
Plenty of variety too: a fabulous old-school tap dance across the whole set including tables and bar counter; a rousing instrumental with everyone on a different instrument; a kind of water ballet at a urinal (no, that’s not a typo); and some unintimidating audience participation for which volunteers are rewarded with a drink. This is the type of atmosphere and entertainment that is being threatened with extinction as pubs crumble under the weight of expanded development.
Go and see it while you can!
Until Apr 7. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $49-$99+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich