Review: THE CHOIR OF MAN at Apollo Theater

The pub of nine singing lads is open for business through May 26, 2024

By: Apr. 04, 2024
Review: THE CHOIR OF MAN at Apollo Theater
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Raise a glass to THE CHOIR OF MAN, a rollicking good time of a show. The show’s a UK transfer and it transports audiences to the fictitious pub The Jungle, modeled after classic Irish and British pubs. Therein, the eponymous nine man choir serves up pop and rock hits on tap. THE CHOIR OF MAN is all about having fun and delivering on its promise of great vocal arrangements.

Created by Andrew Kay and Nic Doodson and directed by Doodson (with spoken monologues by Ben Norris), this is a jukebox musical full of joy. Musical applies rather loosely here; each of the nine choir members assumes an archetypal character name like the “Romantic,” “Hardman,” or “Joker.” Naturally, the show’s narrator is the “Poet,” who provides a loose backstory for each character. That said, the backstories aren’t important (though the brief real-life biographical details of each performer are a sweet touch).  I honestly appreciate that THE CHOIR OF MAN doesn’t spend much stage time on the connective tissue between songs. It’s enough that the opening number is Guns ‘N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle,” the Poet gives us a few words about each choir member, and we’re off to sing. 

The main item on the menu at this pub is pop and rock songs, well sung. THE CHOIR OF MAN cast delivers big-time when it comes to the vocals. The Chicago crew combines CHOIR OF MAN veterans from the UK as well as some local Chicago talent. On opening night, Marc Akinfolarin, Chicago actor RJ Griffith, Ifan Gwilym-Jones, George Knapper, Benji Lord, Mark Loveday, Shane McDaid, and swings Norton James and David Shute made up the choir. The four-piece band featuring Rafe Bradford, Seth Pae (who, in addition to being a great viola player, has a delightful dance number with a pineapple), Scott Simon, and Kelan M. Smith accompanies the choir. 

Musical supervisor Jack Blume has beautifully arranged hits like Adele’s “Hello” and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” for the choir, and the arrangements showcase the singers’ strengths. A particularly poignant highlight was an a cappella arrangement of “Chandelier” as made famous by Sia. While covers of that song are overdone, this sounded fantastic on opening night; the arrangement made magnificent use of dynamics, and the intimacy of the a cappella was a stirring contrast to the more lively numbers with full musical accompaniment. Another highlight: A song like “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” seems made for this kind of show, and Gwilym-Jones has great fun mixing it up with his solo. And while I wasn’t sold on the cringey trough urinal setting for The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under The Bridge,” Lord, Shute, and Griffith deliver some of the most gorgeous harmonies of the show in that number. Each of the lads at the pub has a moment to shine, and the show comes to a rousing conclusion with “Some Nights,” in which Lord has a soaring and pleasing solo. 

THE CHOIR OF MAN is inviting and warm — in fact, there’s literally a bar on-stage where audience members can order beers from the cast before the show. It’s proof that musical theater doesn’t always have to be serious to be good — this is just supreme fun, well-executed. THE CHOIR OF MAN is a relaxing and lively good time with some stellar vocals — and that’s worth raising a pint. 

THE CHOIR OF MAN plays the Apollo Theater, 2250 North Lincoln Avenue, through May 26, 2024. Tickets are $35 - $109. 

Update 5/20/2024: THE CHOIR OF MAN will now complete its official run on May 26 and return in September 2024.

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow




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