The Choir of Man

Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: Arts Theatre, London
Cast: Olugbenga Adelekan, Seán Keany, Michele Maria Benvenuto, Sam Ebenezer, Robert Godrey, Ben Goffe, Luke Conner Hall, Mark Irwin and Sam Pope

Welcome to THE CHOIR OF MAN, the best pub in the world... Come ready to drink in the excitement! A wildly talented group of incredible instrumentalists, world-class wordsmiths, and sensational singers; this cast of nine (extra)ordinary guys serve it all... live! An uplifting celebration of community and friendship where everyone is welcome. It's 90 minutes of feel-good, foot-stomping entertainment unlike anything else in the West End.

This wasn't my first visit to The Jungle, but whether a regular or a newbie to this show, you're welcomed to the pub with open arms. The Choir of Man is set in a pub called The Jungle, which feels almost symbolic of whichever pub is your own local. Throughout the production, the stage is filled with a cast of nine insanely talented male performers that take us on a rollercoaster of emotions in this 90 minute celebration. 

The set design from Oli Townsend begins the moment you enter the theatre. The walls of the inside of the theatre are adorned with cast photos, right up until the stairs of the stage - which is now the home of a local pub, The Jungle. Before the show begins, you can purchase tokens which can be exchanged for a pint of beer onstage. Doing this gives you a chance to interact with the cast, as well as get a closer look at the gorgeous set design. 

Once seats have been taken, the show opens with Guns N'Roses', "Welcome to the Jungle", which is a fitting introduction to the show considering the pub's name. There is no clear cut story, it's simply a night out in the pub with your mates and that's exactly the vibe this show captures. Audience participation is a strong theme throughout. However, it's completely optional - but a lot of fun if you do choose to get involved. 

The music spans decades and genres, and whatever your music taste, they'll be something for you. Standout numbers of the evening for me were "You're the Voice", "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" and "Somebody to Love". There'll be songs throughout the evening that will have you on your feet, and others that will leave a lump in your throat. The choreography and movement direction from Freddie Huddleston was simply outstanding. Ben Goffe's tap dancing was a sight to behold - a true highlight of the evening. 

However, the heart of this show doesn't lie within the pub or the music, it lies within its cast. The talent on the intimate Arts Theatre stage is overflowing. Each cast member is given a nickname: the Maestro, the Romantic, the Beast, the Hardman, the Barman, the Bore, the Poet, the Handyman and the Joker. What I love about this is that it's easy to connect with a story or song that a character sings. While the entire cast shone on the stage throughout, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Mark Irwin as The Barman and Olugbenga Adelekan as The Bore.

One of the aspects I love most about this show is how it highlights the significance of mental health in men, and the importance of having somewhere to go where you feel as though you belong, which for this group of men is their local pub.

The Choir of Man is truly a hidden gem in the West End, and one of the most underrated shows in London at present. It's raw, feel-good and impactful. The perfect combination of light-hearted and serious, with everything you could possibly want from a show (including the opportunity of free beer, crisps and beer mats - what more could you ask for?). An uplifting show that two years later is still very much a firm favourite.

You can book tickets to see The Choir of Man at the Arts Theatre, here.

**photo credit: Richard Davenport**

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