Fringe Review – All the King’s Men (rating: 5/5)
Dimmed lights and a genuine buzz around the sold-out Chambers Street C1 venue greeted the hotly anticipated return of this all-male troup.
There was a frisson in the audience as the nine a cappella singers, veterans of TV’s Pitch Perfect and all students at King’s College, London, launched their set with a spellbinding interpretation of Michael Jackson’s The Man in the Mirror.
This subtle opening was spine-tingling as it started oh so very quietly in the dark then, cue lights, it built into a full-on blend of alto, high alto and baritone harmonies delivered with a joyous earnestness and youthful energy. Simply sublime. What a start.
It is said that All the King’s Men are one of the world’s best collegiate choral a cappella groups. Formed in 2009 the line-up varies as members graduate to their “proper jobs” – last year there were twelve of them. They travel internationally and have been lauded in Boston, San Francisco and, more recently, Moscow.
After their opener, the singers introduced themselves and with no modesty whatsoever invited the audience “to enjoy the best hour of this year’s Fringe”. Fantastic.
A quick mood change and they launched into Ricky Martin’s La Vida Loca, accompanying their rendition with syncopated hip thrusts, sashays and sensational footwork not lost on the audience who whooped and cheered.
This is a show that also delivers spades of comic talent as the guys not only interpret the pieces, they totally act their parts, with hand clapping, foot-pounding movements. And when a boyish beat box baritone delivers a solo section there are whoops of laughter as he sounds like Paul Robeson but looks like he has barely taken up shaving.
At times it was hard to believe there wasn’t a musical instrument hidden somewhere backstage as the syncopated voice work was truly melodic and percussive with at least two or three of the nine providing the back up to the singing.
A comic rendition of Beyonce’s Crazy In Love with cheeky choreography again was a crowd pleaser and this number was ideal for a cappella with its grinding “oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” vocal sounds. Again the voices blended impeccably with some of the group providing the instrumental sounds.
Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman was given a new twist as the guys belted out I Feel Like A Dangerous Woman.
Sam Hunt’s Break Up in A Small Town was suitably sad and soulful complete with talking parts. It should be said that the excellent lighting team added to the ambience with frequent mood changes.
Indeed during Leave A Light On, another mood piece, the lights danced delicately on a hushed audience.
These boys all look like the kind a young lady wouldn’t be scared to take home to meet mum and dad, that is until they launch into Dirty Work, and some naughty dancing. The facial expressions too were priceless and there was not an audience member who left the venue without grinning.
This show is outstanding and, yes, could be the best hour of the Fringe.
All the King’s Men appear nightly at 5.40pm at the C1 venue on Chambers Street until August 22