3.5 out of 4 stars
Lively charismatic and will have you dancing out of your seat! You don’t want to miss Broadway in Chicago’s The Choir of Man. The limited one-week engagement comes to Chicago after hitting numerous international music festivals. This upbeat spectacular is the brain child of talented producers Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay – the team behind Soweto Gospel Choir, The Magnets, and the award-winning North by Northwest. It is a 90 minute non-stop revelry! Good vibes embody this high energy performance with every deliciously contagious note. The multi-talented cast of nine handsome men sing everything from pub tunes, folk, Broadway and classic rock. It’s the best singing, dancing, stomping, pub crawl of a show you’ll ever attend!
Audience participation is encouraged, but for those on the shy side (like myself) it was still a great time with explosive energy and good spirits. The work boasts a wide varied medley of pop hits and uniquely compiled into a single show. The mash-up Save Tonight/ Wake Me Up had this 90’s baby thrilled and toe-tapping that just didn’t stop.
The night truly holds such lively optimistic verve that it’s almost startling when a softer tone is placed within the fray. These moments really highlight the talent and control these vocalists possess. The harmonies across the board are mesmerizing. John Sheehy’s articulation and expression is captivating. Surprisingly, Sheehy has a degree in Structural Engineering and a Masters in Business Studies before finding a path to acting and directing. As semi-finalist in The Voice of Ireland 2015 and in 2016, Sheehy had a number one single in Ireland.
Peter Lawrence (Beast) performs Teenage Dream with an acoustic staccato way to the beat of everyone’s heart as they all instantly fell in love with his gentle giant characterization. Lawrence has been with The Choir of Man since its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 and has almost 20 years of experience with guitar across genres. While Lawrence’s style is enchantingly organic, Andrew Bateup’s musical theater trained voice shines in performing Man of La Mancha’s “The Impossible Dream” with impressive and empathetic essence.
The blocking and choreography is brilliant! This is a production that highlights space usage and simple interaction to make the piece that much more enjoyable. The performance has about 7 spot locations: two side resting places with some bar table, piano and a pile of boxes, the bar upstage, a center spot with movable long table and right on to the edge downstage. This allows maximum natural movement and non-crowded placement for all individuals. Pockets of interactions as mentioned before that allow the lighthearted comedy can shine in this creative symbolic representation for pubs all across the UK. A gemstone in culture often overlooked and taken for granted, as well as on the brink of extinction. Denis Grindel (The Narrator) wonderfully guides the audience through a plea for preserving sacred places while they last – the playgrounds, the community centers, the local pubs that all contribute to the collective sense of home. Among Grindel’s many credit credits includes the lead in Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments in the West End.
With this guiding force and great choreography and staging, you are lost in this world of banter and song while being treated to multi-talented individuals showcasing their passions. Connor Going playfully shows off his incredible piano talents in a number no doubt playing off his Glasgow roots with The Proclaimers “500 miles”, while Matt Cox tips and taps his way up, down and all around through Bruno Mars’ “Lazy Song”. And nothing would be complete without a power ballad from 1986. Tom Brandon stuns with his vibrato and powerfully commanding performance with a UK/Australian classic “You’re the Voice” by John Farnham.
Aidan Banyard, Andrew Bateup, Denis Grindel, Tom Brandon, Matt Cox, Peter Lawrence, John Sheehy, Connor Going, and Mark Loveday are all equally insanely gifted individuals. Their dedication shows throughout this high intensity performance and their backgrounds vary as much as their musical ranges. Each man’s journey is unique to finding The Choir of Man. So, put down your phone, take a break from reality and envelope yourself in this performance with a bunch of talented guys sharing some great music and a laugh. You won’t regret it.
The Choir of Man is playing at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut) for a limited one-week engagement from March 12th through March 17th, 2019. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
For more about the production, please visit http://www.thechoirofman.co.uk/.
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!