'We take a pub on tour'
'Nine handsome men' make tour stop at Colonial Theatre
PITTSFIELD — When The Choir of Man comes to town, everyone's welcome at the watering hole.
On Thursday, the Colonial Theatre will be transformed into a down-to-earth British pub. Walk up on stage, sit down at a table and enjoy a beer — on the house.
At this pub, however, the "regulars" do much more than swig beer. These "nine handsome men," as the cast members are billed, spend 90 minutes sharing well-loved songs, dancing, thoughtful storytelling and breezy banter, revealing their individual personalities, histories and talents in the process.
"There's a lot of instrument swapping, some amazing tap dancing, and very friendly audience participation," said producer Nic Doodson from London. "All the chat is written in modern poetry — our original cast member Ben Norris is a UK Poetry champion."
Songs from every era find a place in the lineup — Paul Simon, Adele, Guns 'n' Roses, Queen, even Broadway — with the traditional Irish folk song `The Parting Glass" ending the evening.
And, like any good pub, singing along is encouraged.
Before the show, audience members are invited to "have a pint and maybe a game of darts," Doodson said. "When the show starts, some of them can stay in the pub if they want."
"That's the spirit of our show," he added. "Basically, we take a pub on tour."
The show was created by the longtime British production team of Andrew Kay, whose lengthy credits include the award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir, and Doodson, founder of the first professional UK a cappella band, The Magnets, which went on to sign an EMI record deal and tour the world.
After the success of their a cappella show "Gobsmacked" — it played 132 dates in the U.S. — Kay suggested producing a show around the title "The Choir of Man." It was up to Doodson to decide what that would look like and direct the resulting production.
"We really liked the idea of creating a show where a bunch of unlikely lads sing absolutely beautifully and, like an onion, reveal layers of themselves that peel back to show more and more talent as the show goes on," Doodson said.
The show "is very genuine and is saying something that is relatable and believable," he said. "We try and dismantle toxic masculinity in our own way, and talk about what it is to look after each other, to be a community and have shared spaces to sit awhile.
"Personally, I love the aesthetic of putting it in a pub, because that's a really friendly place and internationally recognizable. And I love the idea of giving away free beer at the top of the show!"
An entire keg of beer is distributed before and during each performance.
In just a year and a half, the show has crossed the globe, with two additional touring casts currently performing in Australia and "somewhere in the Caribbean" on board Norwegian Cruise Lines.
"I've just finished casting our fourth company," Doodson said, "It's a constant process."
He said he looks for authenticity in his cast members.
"You need to sing beautifully and be ridiculously musically talented to get through the door, [but] I'm interested in who they are more than what they can do," he said.
The performers at the Colonial hail from across the British Isles, from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and all over the UK.
"They're all people I'd go for a pint with and invite home to dinner with my kids," Doodson said.
The Choir of Man "really caught my eye," said Colonial programmer Tor Krautter. "It's a very unique show, and they're touring all over the country.
"I loved the idea of it being an Irish pub setting and how interactive it is with the audience," he added. "I thought it would be a great fit for the Colonial Theatre. It's such a beautiful space, and it sounds amazing; it's got great acoustics."
He was also delighted to be able to schedule them right after St. Patrick's Day.
Colonial patrons are always welcome to bring concession drinks into the theater, Krautter noted; but, for this show, with a working bar on stage, "audience members might be invited to sit down at a table for a drink," he said.
"There's a casualness that puts the audience immediately at ease, and it's such a fun experience and atmosphere.
"This will be a fun night out," he promised.
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