TAMPA — A raucous evening of song, drink and cheer awaits at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
“The Choir of Man” comes from London’s West End and transports viewers to a lively British pub called The Jungle.
Nine blokes welcome you, sing to you and serve you pints of beer by Coppertail Brewing Company from the working bar on stage.
Held in the cabaret-style Jaeb Theater, where the audience sits at tables, a convivial spirit is conjured right away when the show opens with the song “Welcome to the Jungle.” It’s also the first clue that the night won’t be limited to pub songs.
For almost 100 years, British pubs (short for “public house”) were required by law to close at 11 p.m. In 2005, licensing laws were changed to remove that curfew, but before then people found a way around it by locking the doors at 11 p.m. with patrons still inside.
It was called a pub lock-in, and you can imagine the boisterous singing and drinking that would have ensued. This history gave creator and director Nic Doodson the idea for the show.
Rather than named characters, cast members are known by personalities, like Joker, Bore, Romantic and the ever-important Barman. While the personas differ, these men are all stellar singers and performers.
The men are talented musicians also, playing piano, guitar, accordion, banjo, ukulele and trumpet. It’s a fully rounded musical experience.
They make fun quips like “the more you drink, the better we sound,” and pass beers around the audience on several occasions. It’s heavy on audience participation, and many women in the crowd were game to interact with the guys the night we attended.
The mix of songs is eclectic. A particular segment ran through “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” (Rupert Holmes) into a rollicking extended singalong version of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” (The Proclaimers), then “Under the Bridge” (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and a goosebump-inducing “Chandelier” (Sia) with powerful harmonizing.
There are tender moments, too, with themes of home and humanity’s need to gather post-pandemic.
Then the inevitable happened: closing time.
What to know before you go to The Choir of Man
“The Choir of Man” runs through Dec. 10. $74.75 and up (subject to change). David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. Macinnes Place, Tampa. 813-229-7827. strazcenter.org.