Joyful. Emotional. Bouncy. ABOUT TIME. These are just a few of the words that express opening night of The Choir of Man at Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre. Running now through a just-announced extension date of July 25, these lucky 13 guys are here in Cleveland to celebrate!
Taking the stage in an emotional curtain speech, Playhouse Square President and CEO Gina Vernaci acknowledged that “it’s been a long 65 weeks.” That’s the number of weeks it’s been since live theatre was last at Playhouse Square – and there is no shortage of sincere gratitude for what this opening night means for our city.
The Choir of Man is the first U.S. tour that has opened since COVID-19 pandemic rules have eased – and what a needed jolt of energy this group is for our town! Presented with Playhouse Square safety protocols in place (click here to read all about how Playhouse Square is keeping you safe), the 90-minute spin through a jukebox of random music happiness is filled with the playful vibes of a group of guy friends who love hanging out together.
The set list includes a list of pub tunes, folk, Broadway, classic rock – none of which have anything to do one another. That’s ok, though, because in this pub called “The Jungle,” and we’re all just a bunch of blokes hanging out.
“If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that we all need a place to commune,” says Narrator Denis Grindel. He explains that “pub” is short for “public house,” which is a place that we all gather. We learn that the guys on the stage (and now the audience) are part of a family, a group that gathers for human interaction. In the pub, “we’ve lost pets, parents, jobs, and all hope…” says Grindel, but we always come together to share a drink and a bit of life.
These super talented men are more than triple-threats: “Beast” Peter Lawrence not only rocks out vocally, but plays a mean flute. Narrator Denis Grindel delivers the loose through-line of the show conversationally in rhyming verse, and hits the piano from time to time as well. These are just a few examples. The whole cast and band is rowdy, multi-faceted, and vigorously relatable.
We meet the cast and recognize the characters as people we might know in real life: the Bore, the Hardman, the Tapper, the Beast, the Casanova, the Barman, the Piano Man, the Joker. Even the band of the Violin, Guitar, Drums, and Bass are in on the action.
There is not a lot of substance to the show as a whole: it’s more like a bunch of dudes hanging out, shooting the s**t, and having a blast making magical harmonies. And thank you – no mind-blowing plot lines or heavy dramas are needed here! THIS IS A PARTY! Coming out of a pandemic, the audience has no problem scooping up all of the nonsensical goofiness encased in power chords and foot-stomping vitality. And there are a few tear-jerker moments, as well.
Bits that need mentioning include “Beast” Peter Lawrence’s shy version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” the Bore Keith Klein’s card-stacking version of The Man of La Mancha’s “The Impossible Dream,” Tapper Jordan Oliver’s tap moves in “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” a quirky directorial choice of having a trio in the bathroom for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” and many more. One thing is for certain – these blokes can WAIL, and their harmonies are unmatched.
The set list includes (but is not limited to):
Save Tonight / Wake Me Up
The Impossible Dream
Escape (The Pina Colada Song)
Under the Bridge
You’re the Voice
The Parting Glass
Bring Tomorrow On
There is no big plot line. There are no story resolutions. You will not have to consult CliffsNotes to interpret anything that happens in this production. The Choir of Man is simple, pure, unadulterated bliss presented with honest elation. It is the show that says, “The worst has passed: let’s gather safely and enjoy life again!” CHEERS!
The Choir of Man plays the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square now through July 25, 2021. For information and tickets, please visit http://www.playhousesquare.org or call 216-241-6000.
To see the cast members sending greetings to Cleveland on Facebook, CLICK HERE!
Correction 06/12/2021, 5:50pm (EST): Jack Hartigan / Jack Hartinton was referenced incorrectly in the original draft, and has been updated to the correct name of Peter Lawrence.