By Bronwyn Cook
Anyone who is from the UK or has visited will tell you that the local pub can often be the heartbeat of a town (or village). For me, it was Bartons Mill in Basingstoke, a charming place by a stream which I walked to through a country field. For the nine men that make up the “Choir of Man”, it is The Jungle.
A place where the beer is cold, the company is warm, the tales are heartfelt, and the music is everything. Like your local pub, you are made to feel immediately welcome by an invite to join the cast onstage, and at various points throughout the show, for a drink.
During a brisk 90 minutes, the nine multi-instrumentalist singers tell their tales through pop and rock songs covering decades and genres from Queen to Adele to Guns’n’Roses and Avicii, which have been arranged and orchestrated by musical supervisor Jack Blume.
The stories of the men are told by spoken word monologues, written by Ben Norris and performed by the character of the Poet, who also acts in a host/emcee role.
Joining the Poet at The Jungle are a talented and diverse cross section of male performers, who at opening night of this Melbourne season were:
Matthew Campbell – Maestro
Bradley Walwyn – Romantic
Rod Godfrey – Beast
Alistair Higgins – Poet
Nathaniel Morrison – Barman
Aled Pennock – Bore
Tom Brandon – Hardman
Christian Tyler-Wood – Joker
Ethan Vijn – Handyman
As well as the instruments played on stage by the Choir, they are supported by an onstage (well, more above stage) band – Angus Burchall on drums, Marcus Kurban on guitar, Craig Newman on bass and Kyla Matsuura-Miller on violin.
Despite this abundance of music instrument talent, some of the show’s most successful numbers are when the nine men sing a cappella. You’ve never heard Chandelier performed until you’ve heard it sung like the “Choir of Man” do.
Singing along is encouraged and is in full force in songs like 500 Miles, Somebody to Love and one of Australia’s unofficial anthems You’re the Voice.
Premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017, it has toured Australia, the US and has been playing on the West End since 2021, it’s wonderful to have this show in Melbourne for a 5-week season. The Playhouse at the Arts Centre is perfectly suited to this show, as there isn’t a bad seat in the house and it’s appropriately intimate. There were a few microphone and sound problems on opening night, but nothing that can’t be fixed in future shows.
For anyone that loves music, mateship, cold beverages and good times through music, this show is for you. CHEERS!