On walking into the foyer of the Citizen’s Theatre, it was difficult to know quite what to expect from Dominic Hill’s production of The Choir. Evidently, the show would be about bringing people together through song, but would it all end up feeling like an episode of Glee set in the Gorbals? The show follows the journey of twelve people from a variety of different backgrounds who come together, some unwillingly, to form a choir, with the action outside the choir room at times more dramatic than the music itself. This is a musical that does not shy away from important social issues and in two and a half hours, a wide variety of themes are covered including dementia, infidelity, prejudice and postcode poverty.
The cast portray an array of colourful characters; from an unemployed single mother to a former Tory councillor. Particular standout performances for us were Neshla Caplan as Velia, a down-on-her-luck journalism graduate, living at home and struggling to prove to herself her degree was not a complete waste of time (something which we could both relate to!). Scott Reid stole the show as Scott, the cheeky Sports Direct sales assistant who, despite his confident bravado, fears he has no future prospects. However, despite strong performances from the entire cast, The Choir is a musical which is heavily dependent upon stereotypes; from the grumpy old man who laments about change, to the young chavvy single mother in tracksuit bottoms. While this did not prevent us from enjoying the characters, it meant we had to suspend disbelief that such contrasting people would realistically be so invested in a community choir.
For all its grittiness, however, The Choir does offer some genuine laughs, and is not afraid to parody a soap opera. One storyline follows the infidelity of 40-something Charlotte as she lusts after choirmaster Khalid, despite still being married to her deadbeat husband Darren. Myra McFadyen gives a moving performance as Eileen, a spritely yet lonely elderly woman whose husband is unfortunately in full time care and, due to his dementia, no longer recognises her. For Eileen the choir provides an escape from her restricted life and gives her a social outlet. It is in these moments of tragedy that the show is at its best and the audience is captivated.
The music and lyrics are by Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross, known for hits such as Real Gone Kid and Dignity. This is a multifaceted cast so it comes as no surprise that during many of the musical numbers, the cast play their own instruments. Cassie Webb demonstrates that she is a seasoned violinist and pianist, while Scott Reid raps about the perils of zero hour contracts. Whilst the Tory characters Jean and George disapprove of the rap, the audience lap it up. The Choir stands out as a musical because of its unique style, bringing modern forms of music into the theatre, and tackling everyday issues through song from the beginning.
The Choir is successful mix of vibrant music, original song lyrics and true-to-life acting. We would recommend this production, despite the slightly cheesy dialogue and at times contrived plotlines, as ideal for anyone who appreciates good musical theatre. The Choir succeeds in winning its audience over by giving us characters we can’t help but like and empathise with.
The Choir is running at The Citizen’s Theatre from now until 14th November, evening performances are at 7:30 and tickets are between £12.50 and £20.50