Photo: Helen Maybanks

The Choir of Man has taken up residence at the Arts Theatre in Covent Garden, presenting their show created by Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay.

We caught the male voice choir earlier this year when they presented a one-hour version of this show at the Underbelly Festival over the summer. The production now has a new home in Covent Garden in an expanded 90-minute format, with additional songs and a full band. Is it as good second time around? Absolutely – if anything, it’s even better.

The concept remains the same – it’s essentially a lock-in at a pub, with the entire audience invited. The stage is a real bar – you can order pints from it! – with the singers regularly venturing into the audience, handing drinks out or throwing packets of crisps at us to create an authentic pub atmosphere. Occasionally audience members are invited on-stage to be serenaded or take part in card games. It’s very much an interactive experience with participation highly encouraged.

There’s not too much to the story – it is just an evening at the pub – although our compere for the evening, Ben Norris, does a wonderful job of introducing us to the various characters we encounter. We gain brief insights into each character’s life, and there’s a fair amount of variety here – whether we’re meeting strong guys who are more beer than man, or a sensitive queer soul who’s still been desperately swiping on the apps in lockdown, we get just enough info to ensure their songs land with the right amount of emotional punch.

Of course in a show like this, the story is very much secondary to the music, and the quality on display here is excellent. Raucous pub singalongs, like Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ or The Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be {500 Miles)’, are solidly delivered and well-received by the audience. The real highlights, however, are when the vocals are centre-stage – a cappella arrangements of Adele’s ‘Hello’ and Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ are absolutely gorgeous, filling the Arts Theatre with haunting, ethereal harmonies.

The show is delivered by a charismatic and multi-talented cast. While a full live band is visible above the bar, the instrumentation is augmented by a piano on the stage which the guys take turns playing; a whole host of other instruments, including a guitar, a banjo and an accordion, are brought on and used throughout. Numerous bits and pieces around the bar are variously utilised as percussion during the evening to entertaining effect.

We had a really great night with the Choir and Man. For what is effectively just a pop concert it packs a surprising emotional depth, and while the initial atmosphere all feels a bit like a lads night out, there’s a real variety on display with some genuinely moving, poignant moments. If you’re a fan of choirs, or just live music in general, we’re sure you’ll have a great time at this local.

GAY TIMES gives the Choir of Man – 4/5

More information can be found here.