The Choir of Man at Playhouse Square is the perfect medicine
Back in our grandparent’s times the medical field was a hit or miss proposition giving rise to the patent medicine industry. If you suffered from headaches, constipation, dyspepsia, impotence, indigestion, cough, cold, fever, bad blood, pain, female problems or any other malady there was a drought, tonic, elixir, water, oil or little liver pill to cure anything that ailed you (some of which you did not realize you suffered from until you read the label).
For the past fifteen months we have all experienced a terrible malady called “social withdraw.” Many found themselves quarantined with family members and friends in a love/not love situation with the needle swinging wildly on a daily basis.
With the theaters dark and the eateries only doing curb side pick-ups and deliveries there was no pill or bottled formula that could ease our discomfort. What we needed was a real cure in the form of authentic live theater. Happily, that cure is now at hand!
Since June 11, 2021 The Choir of Man has performed 24 performances in the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square and the news gets even better. The show has been extended to 45 new performances stretching all the way out to August 8, 2021.
So what exactly is The Choir of Man? It is an open stage Irish Pub that is a ninety minute microcosm of what typically happens during the thirteen hours that a pub is serving alcohol.
It begins with the bartender opening up as the regulars wander in with piped music in the background. Soon a baker’s dozen of singers, poets, musicians, dancers and percussionist take up their instruments to drown out the piped music and take over the proceedings. Immediately the actors break the fourth wall and start to interact with the members of the audience. They even bring free beer out to the seated patrons on long paddles (think of a boat oar with three cup sized holes in the blade). Audience members are encouraged to imbibe as the Narrator tells us “The more you drink the better we sound.” To be honest, with entertainment this good you do not need a social lubricant to have a roaring good time. This show quickly draws you in making you a part of the craic (good times).
From there on it is an hour and a half of pure entertainment as familiar rousing Irish songs as well as soft ballads are mish moshed with rock standards, pop songs and tap dancing numbers. Supposedly each show has an altered playlist so what you hear on one night might not be true the next. This keeps the show fresh and lively.
The thirteen performers are each and everyone a triple threat of musician, singer and story teller (including the excellent tap dancer). Of special note is the perfect harmony that the singers maintain throughout the show. It is a lot of wild carrying ons and at times it is hard to keep your focus on any one activity as there is so much happening on the stage simultaneously.
The performers include: Denis Grindel (Narrator), Jordon Oliver (Tapper), Keith Klein (Bore), Tom Brandon (Hardman), Peter Lawrence (Beast), Miles Anthony Daley (Casanova), Lemuel Knights (Barman), Ali Higgins (Piano Man), James Hudson (Joker), Miles Brett (Violin), Jack Hartigan (Guitar), Zach Okonkwo (Drums) and Caleb Wilson (Bass). Swings include George Bray (Narrator, Tapper, Barman, Piano Man), Stephen Barry (Casanova, Joker, Harman) and Norton James (Beast, Bore).
On the technical side of things the show was created by Andrew Kay and Nic Doodson who doubles as the director. Freddie Hudelson is the show’s choreographer. Jack Blume is the Music Supervisor and Arranger. Special mention must go out to Alex Ritter for the outstanding sound design. Each singer and instrument was perfectly balanced so that the sound came out loud, clear and individually. Richard Dinnen also does an outstanding job with the lighting design.
For those still worried about “coming back to the theater” masks are at the discretion of the audience member and seating is by segregated groups with the maintaining of social distancing observed.
This is just the medicine that Cleveland needs to bring it out of its doldrums. It is at the same time rowdy, brassy, bold, sentimental, heartfelt and poignant or as those who have traveled to the Emerald Isle would know, a typical night at an Irish pub.
The Choir of Man runs through August 8, 2021 in the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square. For tickets and information call (216) 241-6000 or go online to https://www.playhousesquare.org/.