LAURA PUGH and JEFF CARPENTER provide two very different views of Fitz Barbershop's cheesy fun.
ADC Theatre, 15th May, 11pm, £5-6
Two Tab reviewers provide two very different interpretations of Fitz Barbershop’s cheesy fun.
Fitz Barbershop proved a wonderful exam-term lateshow last night, and had the enthusiastic audience response to prove it. Filled almost to excess with cheesy-rom-com-buckets-of-feel-good, this act put a smile on every face.
A nice touch of diversity ensured that what’s generally perceived to be a very predictable mode of entertainment held plenty of surprises. Alongside the Barbershop classics there was plenty of new material, including an impressive adaptation of ‘Mad World’ and a version of Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’ that managed to be both catchy and effective while surprisingly funny in its self-conscious cheesiness.
Songs ranged from the beautifully performed ‘Wonderful Tonight’ to smooth jazz and contemporary covers including Jose Gonzales’ ‘Heartbeats’, which was a highlight of the night. Soloists were on top form, though it did seem a slight shame that it was the same ones over and over – it would have been nice to have seen a wider range of voices shown off in the spotlight.
Comedy was very much an essential element, and audience participation was a very welcome addition. Getting audience members to text in chat-up lines may have been done many times before, but that doesn’t make it any less funny. Naughty classics such as ‘How Could Little Red Riding Hood (Have Been So Very Good)’ and ‘I Take a Look at My Enormous Penis’ kept the audience laughing throughout the night, punching through to create a hilarious contrast with the earlier sentimental serenading.
One might think that an all-male capella group might face certain limitations, but Fitz Barbershop embraced their genre and pushed it to its full potential. Rather than shying away from their all-male potential, such gems as ‘Saturday Night at The Movies’, where the part of the excitable girlfriend was sung by bass James Richardson, had the audience rapt with delight.
Their moves were slick, their vocals well-rehearsed and the cheese was on. It was nice to see that even in this term, much effort was put into making this show a real treat for its audience, and the effort paid off.
Fitz Barbershop is not a Barbershop group, and this was not a Barbershop show. Ten delightfully nerdy young Cambridge students entertained us for an hour with their silly choreography and pretty mediocre singing of some fairly bland arrangements. Barbershop (as I see it) is four guys singing solid, difficult arrangements, and it being about the music. This was basically a pastiche on the whole idea of ‘Barbershop’.
The group performed ‘traditional’ barbershop arrangements the most convincingly. Goodnight Sweetheart and My Evaline are clichéd choices but excellent, traditional Barbershop and were a real treat to witness. The song about Red-Riding Hood was a particular highlight I thought. Their opening song, which appeared to be an original song all about them, ‘Fitz Barbershop’, was done in the same manner and was lovely to see.
However, Stand By Me, Mad World, and all the arrangements which involved a soloist and nine people going ‘ba ba ba’ in triads were just boring. I’m sick to the teeth of seeing a capella groups murder perfectly good pop songs by having a soloist belt uncomfortably over bland vocalizing and boring harmony. I’m sorry guys, it’s nothing personal, but I just switched off.
Thankfully there were enough homophonic arrangements to engage but a capella – and Barbershop particularly – should lend itself to more creative arrangements. Where was the classic Barbershop trope: a needlessly complex and virtuosic ‘tag’ to round off a song? My guess – right where they left their vocal ability.
This doesn’t make for a bad show. With a couple of pints down me, I had a stupid grin on my face the whole time. The encore of the Penis Song was wonderful, and all their mad, stupid choreography like making a car out of people and waving their hands and taking off their hats was all great.
They all had superlative waistcoats, and vocally they weren’t bad. Better than they were at the airport certainly. Unlike other groups, they didn’t yell their way through the songs but articulated well and sang liltingly and gently, which is ideal for Barbershop.
My problems is that I just adore Barbershop, and this wasn’t it. If you have the good fortune to chance upon The Barbour Boys to this May Week then you will be able to share in my love for real, good Barbershop singing. If you chance upon Fitz Barbershop, just make sure you’ve got some good bucks fizz down you and have a bloody laugh.