Review: Cambridge University Show Choir: Originals

Arthur Westwell 11 May 2012

Cambridge University Show Choir: Originals

Tuesday 8th May, ADC, 11pm

In their first home performance since being proclaimed “The UK’s Number One University Show Choir 2012”, Cambridge’s all-singing, all-dancing guys and gals took on something a little different; a one-night show called “Originals”. While I did end up wishing the choir had taken a few more risks with the indisputable talent they have, it was a fitting addition to their list of successes. Surprisingly the show was not entirely composed of Original songs by any means, and there were plenty of nods to the choir’s usual repertoire, pop culture and Disney, including a surprisingly effective more melancholy rendition of Carly Rae Jepson’s ubiquitous tween anthem “Call Me Maybe”.

Alex Palmer, also on piano for some of the night, took the lead on most of the choir’s original offerings, and while musically accomplished with many a clear pop hook, the first few were a little anonymous, especially in the lyrics department, where imagery was fairly standard, ranging from the strident “Let’s start a Fight” to the empowering “Fly”. An attempt to explore the University experience in “Enough” was more engaging simply because it was something a bit different, and especially well-acted by the choir who excel at slap-stick comedy. That these compositions seemed fair amongst the likes of One Direction and The Wanted is certainly no mean feat given the insane popularity of some of the songs performed but in the beginning I thought the choir could do with a bit more daring. However a few songs in I got exactly what I was looking for in the quietly devastating solo rendition by Alex of his own work “Without a Voice”, clearly coming straight from the heart.

In the group numbers the choir was solid and cohesive, however sometimes soloists were overpowered by their backing vocalists. I did wish the choir had portioned out parts a little more equally at times. Lauren Hutchinson, for example, has a lovely voice, a mix between a belting Broadway talent and the lilting breathiness so beloved of indie female singer-songwriters, but I felt she was a bit over-represented though I admired her courage in appearing on stage in gravity-defying heels. Katie Lindsay’s Aguilera-esque rumble could have done with a bit more exposure, and I would have liked to have seen more of some of the other guys: perhaps Dan Burnand or Sean Keeley. I enjoyed the mash-ups, especially Lady Gaga “The Edge of Glory/Paparazzi”, and Eminem’s “Love the Way you Lie” mixed with Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”, which featured a display of rapping that can only be described as tragically white in the best way possible. The stand-out performance was saved for the encore, Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” entirely acapella with a rousing beat and solos from most of the group. Sometimes the choreography was a little basic, but overall the professionalism and talent on display carried the performance so that it was clear the show choir deserved its title.

Arthur Westwell