CU Show Choir: You Can’t Stop The Beat

JEFF CARPENTER wonders why they won’t smile.

belter choir CU Show Choir Fitzpatrick freddy mercury Jeff Carpenter Musical musical theatre show choir show tunes soloist songs tunes

Fitpatrick Hall, Queens’, Wed 15th – Sat 18th Feb, 11pm, £4-6


I wish I could say the Cambridge University Show Choir is the funnest, cheesiest thing I’ve ever seen, but it isn’t. Why? Because it’s missing the most cheesy ingredient of all: Love.

This should have been a deliriously fun show. It wasn’t, because we had to sit for an hour watching sixteen singers not having a very good time. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me. Musically adept? Absolutely (we’ll get on to that). But fun? No.

I’ve seen these guys before, and have been enraged at terrible mistakes ruining their music. If only I could see them when they had their own show and could practice the tech!

My wish was granted, and at the Fitzpat we were treated to a mounted band (big ‘n’ juicy it were too, look HERE), split on either wall of the auditorium, good vocal mics, and interesting, musical lighting. But I didn’t care. Why weren’t they smiling? Why weren’t they enjoying themselves?

The answer, of course, is because Glee is a lie. Glee isn’t a show choir. Glee has gorgeous, perfectly lit, highly trained stage and screen actors, pretending to be a show choir. The CU Show Choir is what a show choir should be: replete with nerds. For nerds like me, this is utterly wonderful. But I want them to embrace it. Embrace the inner nerd. We all learn – it’s the only way.

The show exploded with the title song from Fame, with great vocals but underconfident choreography, and my first thought was, how can they not smile as they Freddie-Mercury their fists into the air in unison and sing about immortality?

Lady Marmalade from Moulin Rouge also featured some cringingly unsexy dancing from the girls, looking so bored and tired, even with their adventurous vocal improv.

On the other hand, God Bless The Outcasts from Disney’s Hercules was the highlight of the evening for me. The best soloist of the night and fabulous orchestration, along with great lighting, made for a real banger.

Finally, we got to see some people enjoying themselves. The entirely a capella Like A Prayer sounded great, and good old fashioned Love of Music began to beam through the performers. The finale You Can’t Stop The Beat managed to play off this new-found enthusiasm, but the double encore – merely repeating two songs – was incredibly ill-judged, and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Musical Director and Orchestrator Alex Palmer deserves huge credit for his chutzpah to get this brilliant idea off the ground, and writing joyful, engaging and at times even beautiful arrangements.

The band sound great, and so do the singers, even though the soloists aren’t quite up to the standard of normal Cambridge musical theatre fare. The dances are really fun too.

But watching a group of sixteen people not enjoy themselves for an hour brings death to all of this.

This show choir need to say “to hell with Glee”, embrace themselves as the nerds that they are, and have a great time singing and bopping to these cheesy-as-Christ tunes, and let the audience in on their fun. If they did this, they could have on their hands a really great show.