The nine performers display great camaraderie and the direction and choreography by Freddie Huddleston ensures that the confines of the pub are used creatively and refreshingly with each song, while also making evident the familiarity these men have with each other.
There is no denying the vocal skill of the ensemble (even with some microphones issues at various points). A range of songs are covered including Adele's "Hello", Sia's "Chandelier", John Farnham's "You're the Voice" (with strong encouragement from the audience to join in) and the opening number, and show highlight, a mash up of Avicii's "Wake Me Up" and Eagle-Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight".
So while the performances are energetic and the musical numbers with a live band set up above the bar are grand, the heart of this production seems to be missing. We hear monologues about the importance of the pub and the friends and "family" that are made here, and get detailed stories about each of the nine men's conveniently different personalities and where they come from, yet we never see the relationships and feelings between them expressed. There is so much potential with a show like this and breaking stereotypes about men, masculinity and expressing vulnerability but it feels squandered when we instead get a rendition of Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" as three men urinate in the toilets and compare dick sizes. It's frustrating that the audience members who get pulled up on stage - very willingly mind you - for a few minutes end up showing more personality than the characters we meet in this pub for almost two hours.
There is nothing wrong with a jukebox karaoke but given the countless monologues that we hear on the wonderful community and bonds that are present but we never witness, Choir of a Man requires something beyond frivolous fun. Either give these characters much needed depth and opportunity to grow or simply remove the monologues and just allow people enjoy the music, singing and dancing.
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Rd, Southbank
Season: until 11 February | Tue - Fri 7.30pm, Sat 3.30pm and 7.30pm, Sun 2pm
Duration: 100 minutes
Tickets: $89.90 - $109.90 Full | $79.90 - $99.90 Concession
Bookings: Arts Centre Melbourne
Image credit: Danysha Harriott