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Review: The Choir of Man at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne

Updated: Jan 13

Review by Susanne Dahn

The joy of The Jungle is in town ! Melbourne Arts Centre’s Playhouse is now hosting a local season of the Olivier-nominated CHOIR OF MAN in a resoundingly upbeat start to the musical theatre year and a timely highlighting of the love and support available for men in true community with each other.

CHOIR OF MAN is an immersive, interactive, energetic, euphoric, forget-all-your-problems, night out at the pub with your mates accompanied by songs of Queen, Adele, Paul Simon, Proclaimers, Katy Perry, John Farnham and others. Music and pub fans will adore this show, but so too will musical theatre curmudgeons.

CHOIR OF MAN started as an edgy unpolished and ramshackle Edinburgh Fringe experiment five years ago that, despite and perhaps because of the global pandemic, has evolved into the critically acclaimed and crowd pleasing on-it’s-way-to cult hit that has played sell-out seasons in the UK, Europe, US and the Sydney Opera House and is currently in its second year at the West End’s Arts Theatre.

THE CHOIR OF MAN was created by Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay, with musical supervision, vocal arrangements and orchestrations by Jack Blume and Hollie Cassar, movement direction and choreography by Freddie Huddleston, monologues written by Ben Norris, scenic design by Oli Townsend, lighting design by Richard Dinnen, costume design and associate scenic design by Verity Sadler and sound design by Sten Severson and Liam McDermott. The Associate Director is Tom Brandon.

The cast playing in Melbourne features a hugely talented company of British performers playing the choir‘s nine characters - the Maestro, the Romantic, the Beast, the Poet, the Barman, the Bore, the Hardman, the Handyman and the Joker.

Notable performances are by Al Higgins as Poet and pocket rocket who is warm and brilliant as MC and then soars to lead the choir so deftly and poignantly in Dance with my Father and Ethan Vijn as Handyman (he sorts things out) who delivers a show highlight with a cracking snare drum tap routine to 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Rob Godfrey as the lovely Beast is superb on guitar throughout and also contributes greatly to many of the numbers musically and theatrically.

Matt Campbell as Maestro (who almost keeps his inner Rachmaninov in check), Brad Walwyn as Romantic, Aled Pennock as Bore, Nat Morrison as Barman, Tom Brandon as Hardman and Chris Tyler-Wood as Joker make up the rest of the fabulous choir and together they excel at vigorous show-stoppers such as Somebody to Love, exquisite ballads such as Hello and the outstandingly beautiful acapella arrangement of From The Chandelier.

Musical direction of the blending and multi-layered harmonisation of these nine baritone, tenor, alto and even falsetto voices is such a delight to hear especially in such a lively and even raucous setting. The fine and tight musicianship of the support band under the direction of Alistair Higgins and Craig Newman is also absolutely first rate.

This is a great fun night at the theatre, you will laugh, be filled up with both music and beer, be reminded of the importance of genuine community connection that gives each of us life, and be impressed with the theatre making and stage craft skills. You will leave light of step and warm in spirit at our ability - in community with each other - to create such grace and harmony.

Image Credit: Danysha Harriott


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